If you face south this evening (August 28) you'll see the biggest planet and the brightest object in the nighttime sky paired in a close conjunction. The egg-shaped waxing gibbous moon will pass just 2 below Jupiter. Alignments like these have a lot of eye-drawing power. I plan to be out before sunset and also at night to enjoy the sight. Whenever the moon passes close to a bright planet it's an opportunity — call it a challenge — to see if you can spot that planet in the daytime sky.
When the sun is low in the western sky this evening, around 7-7:30 p.m. point a pair of binoculars at the moon and focus it sharply. Then look at little its upper left and see if you tease out the planet Jupiter. Unlike Venus, which often resembles a spark of light, Jupiter has a shape and will appear as a minute, white disk against the blue sky. If you can't see the planet before sunset try again right around sunset. As long as the sky is clear of clouds, haze and wildfire smoke it should be obvious at that time.
As the sky darkens during twilight you'll soon spot Jupiter with the naked eye. Dusk is the best time to get a photo of the conjunction with your mobile phone. During early to mid-twilight the duo will stand out brightly at the same time there's enough ambient light to illuminate the landscape. Frame a pretty picture with a favorite scene, hold the phone steady (or buttress it against a wall, a tree or a friend's back) and press away.
After you're done taking photos spend a few minutes studying the moon in binoculars or a small telescope. You'll see one of its most strikingly beautiful features called the Bay of Rainbows. Could there be a more romantically named place on this barren ball of rock?
Also called Sinus Iridum, the bay is the outline of a former crater 162 miles (260 km) wide that was buried under massive magma flows that breached its walls after the formation of the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Showers), a huge impact basin. All that remains to this day is the arc of the original wall that catches the low-angled sunlight and gleams like a scimitar when the moon is 10 days old. Tonight's the night!
Under favorable conditions I've seen the arc with the naked eye as a comma-like extension of the bright moon into the part still in darkness. Jupiter will also be showing off all four of its bright moons tonight. 10x binoculars will show at least two of them which will look like stars pinned to either side of the planet. Any telescope will reveal all four with ease. Bonus! A 6-inch or larger telescope magnifying 100x will show the Great Red Spot tonight, too. We'll see it square-on around midnight CDT; 1 a.m. Eastern; 11 p.m. Mountain and 10 p.m. Pacific.
Wishing you clear skies.