2020, June 24: Four Bright Morning Planets

2020, June 24: Jupiter is 5.7° to the lower right of Saturn. Jupiter begins to pass 56 Sagittarii. When the image is magnified, two of Jupiter’s moons are visible.

Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible during late June mornings.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Bright Jupiter and Saturn shine from the south-southwest this morning during early twilight.  The Giant Planet is 5.7° to the lower right of Saturn.  During the next few mornings use a binocular to observe the dimmer star 56 Sagittarii, 56 Sgr on the image above.  Jupiter slowly inches past the star as it retrogrades.

By magnifying the image above, two of Jupiter’s moons are visible, Callisto – to the lower right – and Ganymede – to the upper left.

Jupiter and Saturn are retrograding as our planet approaches them.  This is an illusion from our perspective. During retrograde planets seem to move westward compared to the starry background. These bright outer planets retrograde until September.

Earth passes between Jupiter and the sun on July 14.  This is known as opposition.  The sun and Jupiter are on opposite sides of Earth.  Saturn is at opposition six days later.

When at opposition, a planet can be tracked across the sky all night.  The planet rises in the eastern sky as the sun sets.  It appears in the south during the midnight hour, and sets in the western sky at sunrise.  Jupiter and Saturn can now be found in the eastern sky later in the evening.

When Jupiter and Saturn resume their direct motion – moving eastward compared to the stars – Jupiter overtakes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.  This occurs every 19.6 years.  This year’s conjunction is the closest since 1623.

2020, June 24: Mars, in the southeast and in eastern Aquarius, is near the star 27 Piscium. Tomorrow, Mars moves into Pisces

Meanwhile in the southeast, Mars continues its eastward march against the stars. The planet is front of the stars of eastern Aquarius, near the star named 27 Piscium, 27 Psc on the image above.  Use a binocular each morning to watch Mars move past the star and other nearby stars.  Tomorrow it moves into Pisces.

Mars is at opposition on October 13, 2020.

2020, June 24: Brilliant Venus is visible in the east-northeast about 25 minutes before sunrise.

As the sky brightens as sunrise approaches, Venus rises in the northeastern sky.  It is visible during bright twilight.  In the image above, Venus is visible about 25 minutes before sunrise.

The five bright planets and the crescent moon appear together on the morning of July 19.

Here’s more about the planets during June.

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