What’s that bright star near the Moon on March 29th and 30th? That’s no star… it’s the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is always brighter than any star and in March and April shines with a pale yellow-white color high above the southern horizon for observers in the northern hemisphere.
Jupiter is nearly two months past opposition, which is the time when it comes closest to Earth. But it’s still a spectacular target for visual observation and for imaging. The dark bands of the north and south equatorial belts are visible even in a small telescope. So are the four largest moons that move around the planet from hour to hour and night to night. The dark oval of the Great Red Spot can also be observed if the timing is right, although this Earth-sized cyclone moves quickly across the face of Jupiter as the planet makes a complete rotation in a little less than 10 hours.
As the Moon moves eastward each night, Jupiter creeps a little westward and deeper into the constellation Cancer as it moves in retrograde. The biggest planet resumes its eastward motion back towards the constellation Leo later in April.