2020, September 13: Bright Jupiter Begins to Close on Saturn

2020, September 13: Saturn is 8.1° to the left of Jupiter. In the starfield, Jupiter is 2.1° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 2.9° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). Saturn is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).

Jupiter’s retrograde ends and the Giant Planet begins to close on Saturn for the Great Conjunction of 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the south as the sky darkens from early evening twilight.

Jupiter is now moving eastward compared to the starry background, while Saturn retrogrades – moves westward compared to the stars – until month’s end.

This evening Jupiter is to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr on the photo above) and to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). 

Saturn is 8.1° to the left of bright Jupiter.  It is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).

The gap between Jupiter and Saturn begins to close until the Great Conjunction of 2020, when Jupiter seems to pass very close to Saturn in the evening sky.  This is the closest conjunction since the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction of 1623.  Great Conjunctions occur every 19.6 years, but this is the closest for nearly 400 years.

Before Jupiter passes Saturn in our sky, Jupiter edges past Saturn as viewed on the solar system’s scale in what is known as a heliocentric conjunction.  This occurs on November 2.

Continue to look for Jupiter and Saturn each evening.  During the next several weeks, watch Jupiter close the gap to Saturn.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

2021, May 22: Parading Five Planets

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.

2021, May 21: Evening Planet Ballet

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.

2021, May 21: Twilight Lengthens

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.

2021, May 20: Evening Planet Dance

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.

2021, May 20: Morning Summer Triangle

May 20, 2021:  With two bright planets in the southeast before sunrise, the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair, and Deneb – is high in the south as daylight approaches.

Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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