By Cole Hill ( | First Posted: Jan 21, 2013 02:35 PM EST
Tags space

(Photo : Reuters)

Jupiter and the Earth's moon will engage in a rare cosmic close encounter Monday night, appearing just a finger-width apart for stargazers across North America, according to And thanks to a free online live stream of the heavenly event, you won't need a professional telescope or perfect weather to catch this unique celestial spectacle.

The skywatchers over at the Slooh Space Camera website are providing unobstructed, free views of Jupiter's brush with the moon during a 30-minute webcast beginning at 9 p.m. EST Monday. Slooh president Patrick Paolucci, astronomer Bob Berman of Astronomy Magazine and astro-imager Matt Francis of the Prescott Observatory will present the live views of Jupiter and the moon.

According to Sky & Telescope magazine, Jupiter and the moon will appear at their closest at various times, depending on your viewing location. For Eastern North America the planets will appear closest at 11:30 p.m. EST; for further inland, it should occur at 10 p.m. CST; for observers in the Mountain Time Zone, peak viewing should hit at 8:30 p.n. MST; on the West Coast the best time to view the phenomenon should come at 7:00 p.m. PST.

Observers might even have a chance to catch the celestial spectacle during daytime, Sky and Telescope magazine officials said.

"You'll also get an opportunity to attempt an unusual feat: spotting Jupiter in the late afternoon, before the sun sets," says Tony Flanders, associate editor at Sky & Telescope magazine and host of SkyWeek on PBS. "First locate the moon medium-high in the east; then look a few moon-widths left or lower left of the moon for Jupiter. It should be easy to spot with binoculars if the air is clear."

Viewers in South America might also be in for a particularly rare treat Monday night. Some observers on the continent may get the chance to see Jupiter slip behind the moon in a bizarre occultation.

No matter where you are, Slooh's Space Camera promises as brilliant view of the event, and close up of the famous Great Red Spot of Jupiter.

"By good fortune, the Great Red Spot will be traveling across the middle of Jupiter's disk during Slooh's live broadcast," Slooh officials said.

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is actually an enormous storm at least twice the size of Earth that scientists have observed on Jupiter since the 1600s, according to

If you're a more season amateur astronomer and/or have access to a decent telescope you might want to try searching for Jupiter's Great Red Spot on your own, as the storm is expected to be visible in eyepieces along with Jupiter's moon, Europa. Europa is scheduled to cross in front of Jupiter between 8:13 p.m. to 10:37 p.m. EST (5:13 to 7:37 p.m. PST/ 0113). Europa's shadow on the moon should cross Jupiter from 10:22 p.m. to 12:46 a.m. EST (7:22 to 9:46 p.m. PST/0322 to 0546 GMT), magazine officials said.

(Note: The latest webcast will appear in the window above at the start time for the event.)

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