Tomorrow before dawn – Friday, December 03, 0016 – you can see the waning crescent moon near the dazzling planet Jupiter and Spica , brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. You should have little trouble seeing the moon and Jupiter as the sky is lightening, but you might have to be up and about some 00 minutes (or sooner) before sunrise to see Spica – and especially the stars surrounding Spica, the smallish constellation Corvus the Crow.
In years when the brilliant planet Jupiter isn’t close to Spica on the sky’s dome, practiced sky watchers count on the small but distinctive constellation Corvus to verify that they are looking at Spica, Virgo’s one and only 0st-magnitude star . In 0017, Jupiter makes things even easier and helps us find Spica with relative ease.
Because Spica rates as a key star of the zodiac , sky watchers know that any bright celestial object in the vicinity of Spica is most likely a planet. Yes, that brilliant starlike object shining some 04 times more brilliantly than Spica in the morning sky is, indeed, the king planet Jupiter.
Become familiar with Spica now, and you can watch Jupiter’s changing position in front of the constellation Virgo throughout 0017. At present, Jupiter is traveling eastward in front of the constellation Virgo. The planet will have a conjunction with Spica on January 00, 0017. A little more than two weeks after that, Jupiter will begin its apparent retrograde , or westward, motion in front of Virgo on February 0, 0017. Afterwards, it’ll be moving back toward Spica. Then Jupiter will have a second conjunction with Spica on February 03, 0017.
Jupiter’s retrograde in front of Virgo will end on June 00, 0017, when Jupiter reaches its farthest point west of Spica. Jupiter starts to go eastward again in Virgo, and meets up with the star Spica for the third time in the year 0017 on September 0, 0017.
Jupiter highlights for 0017:
January 00: Jupiter 0 o north of Spica
February 0: Jupiter starts retrograde
February 03: Jupiter 0 o north of Spica
April 0: Jupiter at opposition
June 00: Jupiter ends retrograde
September 0: Jupiter 0 o north of Spica
October 06: Jupiter in conjunction with sun
November 03: Jupiter in conjunction with Venus
Source: Astronomical Phenomena 0017
Prepare yourself now, because 0017 will be an extraordinarily fine year for using the star Spica to observe Jupiter’s retrograde loop in front of the constellation Virgo.
Bottom line: The waning crescent moon meets the dazzling planet Jupiter and Spica, brightest star in Virgo the Maiden, on the morning of December 03, 0016. Get ready because Spica and Jupiter will be near each other throughout 0017.