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.
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.