Image: Jupiter's Galilean moons
Kevin L. Hudson
Astrophotographer Kevin L. Hudson of Atlanta, Georgia, sent along this shot taken on Jan. 2, 2012, and says: "I was able to image our moon and all four of Jupiter's Galilean moons in a single image."
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updated 1/3/2012 7:39:52 PM ET 2012-01-04T00:39:52

The moon and Jupiter kicked off a new year of skywatching Monday night in a cosmic rendezvous that amazed skywatchers around the world.

During the celestial encounter, a skywatching sight known as a conjunction, the moon appeared just above Jupiter as the two objects moved across the nighttime sky. With Jupiter currently shining three times more brightly than the most luminous star in the night sky, the view was stupendous, skywatchers said.

"This [was] an amazing conjunction of the moon and Jupiter," observer Polina Bozhkova of Minsk, Belarus, told Space.com in an email.

Bozhkova's photos showed Jupiter and the moon in early evening, when the sky was still a darkening blue. [ More skywatcher photos of Jupiter & the moon ]

A celestial tango
Jupiter and the moon, which is in its gibbous phase, crept within about 5 degrees of each other as they crossed the night sky on Monday. For comparison, if you held out your arm and covered a patch of the sky with your fist, it would cover about 10 degrees.

Jupiter and the moon provided a real treat for skywatchers with good weather. In Ontario, Canada, skywatcher Greg Maza braved a chilly winter night to snap the amazing sight, despite the icicles hanging from his roof.

"Icicles, snow, the moon, and Jupiter!" Maza wrote SPACE.com in an email. "Zoom into Jupiter and you can even see its moons and some stars around it."

And Maza wasn't the only one to see the moons of Jupiter. 

"I was able to image our moon and all four of Jupiter's Galilean moons in a single image," wrote observer Kevin Hudson, who created a composite image to compensate for the brightness of the moon. Hudson said he used an off-the-shelf Nikon D-90 camera and lens to snap the view.

Other skywatchers timed their photos to coincide with an appearance of the International Space Station, creating long-exposure views that show the orbiting lab as a streak of light soaring 240 miles above Earth, with Jupiter and the moon shining in the background.

Image: International Space Station, Jupiter, the moon
Barry Shlupp
Skywatcher Barry Shupp snapped this view of the International Space Station (bright line at left) shine near Jupiter and the moon in a long-exposure taken on Jan. 2, 2012 from Denver, Pa.

Still others took a more tongue-in-cheek, or "jovial," approach to photographing Jupiter and the moon. In State College, Pa., skywatcher Sam Hartman decorated his sky scene with a vicious dragon — actually a model of the fictional beast Alduin from the computer game "Skyrim."

In Hartman's photos, the dragon appears to roar skyward from a snow-covered perch as Jupiter and the moon shine overhead.

The view was worth waiting out the "passing clouds and some strong snow squalls" to snap the photos, Hartman told Space.com.

More planets and meteor shower delights
Jupiter and the moon aren't the only dazzling objects in the night sky this week. The bright planet Venus is making appearances in the evening sky just after sunset and can appear three and a half times brighter than Jupiter.

And the sights don't stop there.

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On the night of Jan. 3 and early Jan. 4, the annual Quadrantid meteor shower is peaking, promising up to 100 meteors an hour in the most optimum viewing conditions. The best time to see the meteor shower is at 2:30 a.m. ET on Jan. 4.

To see the Quadrantids, look to the northeastern sky at or after midnight, and be sure to bundle up against January's northern winter chill.

You can also watch the Quadrantid meteor shower online via this NASA website.

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of the Jupiter, the moon, the Quadrantid meteor shower or any other skywatching sight, and would like to share it with Space.com, contact managing editor Tariq Malik at: tmalik@space.com.

You can follow Space.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik. Follow Space.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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