Firstly, find a spot where you’ll have an unobstructed view to the eastern horizon without buildings or trees. The show begins at about 5pm when the full moon breaks over the horizon. About an hour later it’s joined by Jupiter, as it too scales over the edge of our planet. The final act in this celestial showcase is when some 45 minutes later Saturn peeps over the horizon, and joins this duo to create a celestial trio.
To bag the complete series of risings on this evening, be prepared to spend at least an hour-and-a-half outside, so rug up warmly. A light camping chair or a banana lounge could come in handy, and perhaps add a sleeping bag for extra warmth. Have some hot chocolate ready in a thermos and you’ll not even notice the temperature dropping.
A moonrise is a magnificent spectacle any time of year and if you’ve never seen one before, this will make a perfect first time. Lining up in an almost straight line, descending in order of brightness – the moon, then lower Jupiter, and Saturn lower still, will make for a stunning sight. Furthermore, as the three will be spaced equidistantly it will resemble a cosmic totem pole. The three solar-system objects will climb higher as evening progresses, presenting a rare early-evening alignment in the eastern sky.
There’s a huge exercise in perspective presented here as you watch these objects which deceptively appear to be in proximity to each other. The brightest – the moon – is closest to earth at 184,000 kilometres. Jupiter is 40 times bigger than the moon and next brightest, but is 600 million kilometres from us. More than doubling that distance, Saturn is a whooping 1.35 billion kilometres away. Astronomical ‘social distancing’ is out of this world. Show the family, tell your friends. Enjoy.