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.
May 23, 2021: Five bright planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise in the southeastern sky. The star Fomalhaut is becoming visible below bright Jupiter and near the horizon. After sundown, Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the nighttime hours.
May 22, 2021: Five planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Evening Star Venus, Mercury and Mars are in the western sky after sunset. A bright moon is in the southeastern sky.
May 21, 2021: Three bright planets are dancing in the western sky after sundown. Evening Star Venus is entering the sky for a months-long residency after its solar conjunction two months ago. Mercury is heading for a conjunction with Venus after its best evening appearance of the year. Mars continues its eastward march in Gemini, but time is running out on its appearance as it approaches brighter evening twilight and a conjunction with Venus.
May 21, 2021: At the weather warms, daylight and twilight lengthen to diminish nighttime hours. As the summer solstice approaches far northern latitudes do not have periods of darkness. From the most northern latitudes, the sun does not set – the Land of the Midnight Sun.
May 20, 2021: Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars continue their planetary dance in the western sky after sunset. Begin looking for brilliant Venus about 30 minutes after sunset. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury and Mars join the ballet.