Click here for the July 9, 2020 view.
At about one hour before sunrise four bright planets and the gibbous moon parade across the July morning sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Morning Star Venus, Mars, Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter stretch across the sky from the east-northeast tree line to the southwest skyline this morning before sunrise.
Over an hour before sunrise, as shown in the image above, the bright gibbous moon, that is over 95% illuminated, is about 13° from Saturn. Compare the moon’s position with Jupiter and Saturn in yesterday’s location.
Jupiter and Saturn are retrograding in front of the stars of eastern Sagittarius. This illusion makes the planets appear to move westward compared to the stars. This occurs when our faster moving planet approaches and passes the planets farther away from the sun than Earth.
Earth moves between Jupiter and the sun in a week (July 14) and Saturn six days later. This is known as opposition.
The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.4° and widening. Jupiter moves faster than Saturn.
Retrograde motion for this planetary pair continues until September. Jupiter moves eastward and passes Saturn on December 21, 2020, in a Great Conjunction.
Use a binocular to see Jupiter and Saturn in the starfield. This morning Jupiter is 2.7° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the photo above), while Saturn is 3.4° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).
Farther east in the southeastern sky, Mars is marching eastward – a planet’s normal motion – in the stars of Pisces, near the Pisces-Cetus border. The planet is about halfway up in the sky in the southeast. It is the brightest “star” in the region.
The stellar background in this region is dim and more difficult to see with the bright moon nearby.
This morning the Red Planet is 2.9° to the lower right of 44 Piscium (44 Psc), 1.0° to the lower right of 10 Ceti (10 Cet), and 2.8° to the upper right of 14 Ceti (14 Cet).
Tomorrow Mars moves into Cetus. Look it is position compared to the dim starry background with a binocular.
Mars continues to move eastward compared to the stars until early September when it begins to move in a retrograde direction. Mars is at opposition on October 13.
At about an hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus, low in the east-northeast, is moving through the Hyades star cluster in Taurus. The Hyades and Aldebaran form the sideways “V” that outlines the head of the Bull.
This morning Venus is part of a line that starts at Aldebaran and ends at Delta1 Tauri (δ1 Tau). The planet is 0.6° to the lower left of Delta2 Tauri (δ2 Tau). Look with a binocular tomorrow morning when Venus is in the middle of the “V.”
Get your cameras ready for July 17, when the moon groups with Venus and Aldebaran. With the Hyades star cluster and Pleiades star cluster, this will be a picturesque view.
Mercury joins the parade beginning July 19 when the “Classic 9” planets are in the sky simultaneously with the moon, at about 45 minutes before sunrise.
For more about the planets see this article about where to find them during July.
The planet parade begins this evening when Jupiter and Saturn are above the skyline about two hours after sunset. As midnight approaches, the gibbous moon is low in the southeast.
Tomorrow, Mars is above the east horizon by 1:30 a.m. with the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter farther west.
By an hour before sunrise, Venus enters the scene in the east-northeast with Mars in the southeast, the moon in the south, and Jupiter and Saturn toward the southwest.