2020, May 31: Bright Morning Planets Arc Across the Sky

2020, May 31: May closes with the morning planets arcing across the southern sky. Jupiter is 4.8° from Saturn, while Mars is over 45° from Jupiter.

The morning planets arc across the southern sky today. An outer planet pair – bright Jupiter and Saturn – shines from the southern skies. They are 4.8° apart. They continue to appear to move westward compared to the starry background.

Jupiter is in eastern Sagittarius and Saturn is in western Capricornus.

Jupiter passes Saturn on December 21, 2020, for what is known as a Great Conjunction. Such events occur every 20 years.

Mars is farther east and it continues to move eastward among the starry background.

The image above shows more detail than typical photos in these pages. The photo is a 20-second time exposure that shows the dimmer starry background. Jupiter is 2.2° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Saturn is 1.4° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

The original idea of a planet that it was a special star that moved compared to the starry background – a “wandering star.” During the next few weeks use a binocular to watch Jupiter and Saturn move westward (to the right on the image) compared to 56 Sgr and σ Cap. These planets seem to move slowly compared to the background of “fixed stars.”

In comparison, Mars moves faster. It is moving eastward, left in the image. During the next several mornings, use a binocular to watch Mars move past Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr), heading toward Phi Aquarii (φ Aqr.). This morning Mars is 2.0° from λ Aqr.

Mars continues to move away from Jupiter and Saturn. This morning Mars is over 45° from Jupiter.

Follow the planets in the sky during June.

Venus moves into the morning sky next month, joining this planetary trio.

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