A quartet of bright morning planets shines in the June morning sky. Mars continues to open a gap with Jupiter and Saturn. Brilliant Venus sparkles from low in the sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
This morning bright Jupiter is low in the south-southwest. Saturn is 5.6° to the upper left of Jupiter. The planetary pair is retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.
Retrograde motion is an illusion that occurs when our faster moving Earth approaches, moves past, and recedes from slower moving objects that are farther away from the sun than Earth.
Earth passes between the sun and Jupiter (opposition) on July 14 and Saturn on July 20. When outer planets are at opposition they rise in the eastern sky at sunset, appear in the south during the midnight hours, and set in the west at sunrise.
During September the planets begin their normal eastward motion compared to the stars. Jupiter overtakes and passes Saturn on December 21, 2020 in a Great Conjunction that occurs once every 19.6 years.
Mars is farther eastward, nearly 62° from Jupiter. Mars begins to retrograde on September 9, and appears at opposition on October 13, 2020. It continues to march eastward compared to the starry background.
Even without the clouds this morning, Mars is in a region of very dim stars in eastern Aquarius.
Venus is beginning its morning appearance. It appears low in the east-northeast before sunrise. The planet is rising over four minutes earlier each morning, 84 minutes before sunrise this morning.
The five bright planets and the crescent moon appear together on the morning of July 19.
Here’s more about the planets during June.