Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are making their final appearance together during 2020.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
For the next several mornings, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the sky together, spanning the celestial vault from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline. Locate a clear spot to view Venus and Jupiter simultaneously.
The chart above shows the sky at three hours before sunrise. The planets appear as overly bright stars. Brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast. Mars is high in the southeast. Bright Jupiter is low in the southwest, with Saturn to its upper left. The moon appears in the with the planetary quartet until August 15.
Venus continues to step eastward in the stars of Orion until August 13 when it moves into the constellation Gemini. Jupiter, at the western extreme of this morning planet parade, is retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.
The Venus – Jupiter gap continues to widen. On August 25, the two planets are in opposite directions for us. Jupiter sets as Venus rises, leaving three planets in the morning sky. Saturn disappears below the southwestern horizon early next month, leaving Mars and Venus in the morning sky.
Venus and the crescent moon make a beautiful grouping on August 15. Get your camera ready!
Mars continues to march eastward in Pisces. It is nearing a point where it appears to begin to retrograde. The photo above shows the starfield where it appears for the next several weeks. Mars appears to pass Mu Piscium (μ Psc on the photo) and move toward Nu Piscium (ν Psc). Use a binocular to track Mars in the starfield.
The four planets are in the sky together for a short spell during early August 2021 as Mars disappears toward its solar conjunction in the west and Jupiter enters the evening sky, with Saturn and Venus between the two other planets.
Meanwhile, this year, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot in the southeast after sunset. After the giant planet pair ends its retrograde next month, Jupiter approaches and passes Saturn on December 21, 2020 in a Great Conjunction, the closest since 1623.
On the morning of August 12, view the annual Perseid meteor shower. While a brighter moon outshines the dimmer meteors, five or six meteors are visible each hour on the prime morning.
The first sightings of Sirius by the unaided eye occur this week about 45 minutes before sunrise.
Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.
November 3, 2021: Before sunrise speedy planet Mercury, the crescent moon, and the star Spica are grouped together. The trio does not appear this close together again until 2033.
October 31, 2021: There is no Halloween Full moon this year, and the phase is not close. The crescent moon is in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east-southeast before sunrise. The planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – gleam in the evening sky.
October 29, 2021: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun. It is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon and Mercury are in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 29 – November 1, 2021: The crescent moon moves in front of the stars of Leo in the eastern sky before sunrise. Watch the moon appear lower and the phase shrink (wane) each morning. Also note that there is no Full moon on Halloween this year!
October 26, 27, and 28, 2021: During the early morning hours, the bright gibbous moon appears in front of Gemini’s stars.