by Jeffrey L. Hunt
This morning, Jupiter and Saturn shine from the south before sunrise. Bright Jupiter is to the right of Saturn. They are 4.8° apart. Both planets are retrograding – moving westward compared to the starry background. While they rise in the east and move westward during the night from our planet’s rotation, they appear to move compared to the starry background.
As the planets retrograde, Jupiter appears to move away from dimmer Saturn. Retrograde motion occurs as our faster moving Earth catches these two outer planets each year and moves between them and the sun. From our place, the sun and the outer planets are in opposite sides of the sky. This opposition occurs for Jupiter and Saturn during July.
Jupiter passes Saturn on December 21, 2020, for what is known as a Great Conjunction. Such events occur every 20 years.
Meanwhile, Mars is in the southeast. It is nearly 45° from Jupiter. It appears as a bright star against the much dimmer stars in this region of the sky.
Mars is moving eastward compared to the starry background. This planet revolves around the sun about half the speed of Earth, so we catch up and pass it about every 25 months. It begins to retrograde in September and is at opposition on October 13, 2020.
Venus moves into the morning sky next month.
Here’s what’s up with the planets during June.