As the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn nears, Jupiter passes Saturn if viewed from the sun.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
As Jupiter edges closer to Saturn in the evening sky of Earth, Jupiter passes Saturn as viewed from outside the solar system on November 2, 2020. This is known as a heliocentric conjunction. The next one for these two planets is on December 7, 2040.
If we were on Jupiter on November 2, we would say that Saturn is at opposition. Saturn is in the opposite direction in the sky from the sun. If we were Saturnians, then we would say that Jupiter is at inferior conjunction, between Saturn and the sun. Notice on the chart above that Earth is not close to the line of the heliocentric conjunction.
From these two planets in alignment, a question may develop about more planets appearing in a line from the sun. Astronomer Jean Meeus (Mathematical Astronomy Morsels, pp. 186-191) addresses the question. Without reciting his reasons, the answer: “Never!” The dynamics of fast – moving Mercury to slow-moving Pluto (Yes, Pluto is one of the “Classic Nine” planets.), there is never a moment when all nine are in a line stretching from the sun. He further notes that it’s impossible for even three to be in a line. Reasonably they can be within a 60° angle of each other, 50° if Pluto is not included.
In our sky, the planets are 5.0° apart. They can be found in the south-southwest about an hour after sunset on November 2. Saturn is to the upper left of bright Jupiter. The planets are in front of the stars of eastern Sagittarius. The famous “Teapot” shape is to the lower right of the planets.
The Great Conjunction occurs December 21, 2020.
Continue to watch Jupiter and Saturn, as the Jovian Giant moves in and passes the Ringed Wonder as viewed from our observing spot on Earth.
February 23, 2022: Brilliant Morning Star Venus and Mars are in the south before sunup, while the moon is in the south. The bright stars of winter make a letter in the night sky.Keep reading
February 22, 2022: The moon covers Zubenelgenubi before sunrise. Venus and Mars are in the southeast before sunup. Canis Minor is in the southern sky during early evening hours.Keep reading
February 21, 2022: Venus and Mars dance in the southeastern sky before sunrise. The bright moon is near Spica. During the evening the Dog Star is in the southern sky.Keep reading