2020, August 25: A Venus – Jupiter Opposition

2020, August 25: Venus and Jupiter are in opposite directions from Earth, a Venus – Jupiter opposition. While not an attraction to view, Jupiter departs from the quartet of bright morning planets. (Planet sizes not to scale.)

Venus and Jupiter appear in opposite directions as viewed from Earth on August 25.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Normally, we point to times when Venus passes Jupiter in either the evening or morning sky.  Sometimes, Venus appears very close to Jupiter as it passes the solar system’s largest planet.  We photograph these conjunctions and display the photographs on these pages.

The Venus – Jupiter opposition is the reverse of a conjunction.  The planets are as far apart in the sky as they can appear.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have stretched across the early morning sky since mid-June.  Earth passed Jupiter and the sun on July 14 and Saturn and the sun 6 days later.  When a planet, farther away from the sun than Earth, is at opposition, it rises at sunset, appears to move across the sky during the night, and sets at sunrise.  Near opposition, the planets are closest to Earth.  From their remote places, Earth-based and orbiting telescopes focus on the planet to locate any changes on the surface of the planet.

Now Earth is moving away from Jupiter and Saturn and toward Mars.  The Martian opposition is October 13, 2020.  Venus passed Earth on June 3 and popped into the morning sky.  It is now moving away from us.  Venus continues to climb higher into the morning sky.  By August 9, Venus reaches its earliest rising time (2:25 a.m. CDT in Chicago, Illinois).

With all these “moving parts,” Venus appears farther away from Jupiter.  By mid-August, observing all four planets together in the sky becomes at challenge, even with Venus rising early and observers looking at the sky as early as 3 hours before sunrise.

Earth is between the two planets on August 25, a Venus – Jupiter opposition.  Observers are not inclined to view Venus on one horizon and Jupiter on the opposite vista.  Yet, it is worth noting that this bright morning quartet of planets is breaking up, much sooner than we wanted, like our favorite music group.

Here’s more about the planets during August.

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