Four bright morning planets – Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – span the sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – span the morning sky from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.
During the predawn hours, bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwest. They appear among the stars of eastern Sagittarius. These giant planets are 7.3° apart. Look at Jupiter with a binocular. It’s possible to see some of its four bright Galilean moons, first observed in Galileo’s telescope during the 17th century. This morning Ganymede is visible in the photo above.
Jupiter passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.
Look for Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast about an hour after sunset, as they clear the local trees, houses, and buildings. During the night, they appear to move westward.
During the morning hours, Mars is high in the southeast, among the stars of Cetus. Tomorrow it moves into Pisces. The stars identified on the accompanying photo show the dim star field where the Red Planet passes opposition, October 13, 2020.
Brilliant Venus is in the eastern sky. It is in front of the stars of Taurus the Bull. Watch it move toward and pass Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of the Bull, on the photo, during the next several mornings. This morning Venus is 5.8° to the upper right of the star.
Notice that Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster make a sideways “V” that represents the head of the Bull. The Pleiades star cluster is higher in the sky, and is said to be riding on the Bull’s back.