When Moon Meets Jupiter and Saturn on Their Way to Great Conjunction

Sky watching is a lesson in learning that things take time, even though they can be fleeting once they occur.

Think of Saturn and Jupiter. Because of the difference in their orbital rhythms, it takes them 20 years to come together in the same region of sky, which they’ll do this year,  at Winter Solstice in December. They’re already pretty close to one another, and they’ll be constant companions throughout the weeks and months ahead. When they come to the moment of their exact conjunction, they’ll be closer than they have been since the time of Galileo in the 1600s!

There’s still nearly six months to wait ’til we get to this Great Conjunction, so here’s what to know: Each month, the Moon sweeps through the same region of sky where Jupiter and Saturn are. This week, the Moon passes by Jupiter on Monday morning an hour before sunrise, then past Saturn on Tuesday morning.

Waning gibbous Moon sweeps past Jupiter and Saturn this week. Next month, the Moon will be at Full Phase when it makes this meeting. Image from Sky&Telescope

Then a month will pass, and the Moon will meet the two again, only this time, the Moon will be at Full Phase, right between them.

Each month as the Moon passes the two gas giants, its at a different phase in its cycle, shedding more or less light into the sky as it passes them by.  So here’s a thing to ponder while we head toward their Great Conjunction: what’s happening each month when they’re met by the Moon? In March, the Moon was a waning crescent when it passed Jupiter and Saturn in the morning sky. It was a time that lent itself to greater inwardness, which is what a waning Moon symbolizes ~ drawing within.  This week the Moon is meeting them during its gibbous phase, when it appears larger, symbolizing a much more active and outward mood, which will peak next month when the Moon meets them at Full Phase.

These encounters with the Moon each month can be a terrific way to prepare for the Great Conjunction, and to support the feeling that all the most important things take time.

Hear this episode on Interlochen Public Radio, and on podcast sites everywhere!

Mary Stewart Adams