2020, September 17: Jupiter, Saturn, International Space Station

2020, September 17: The International Space Station passes Jupiter and Saturn during a 10-second time exposure. The planets are 8.0° apart.

After the sky cleared today, the International Space Station made a bright pass across the mid-northern latitude states this evening near Jupiter and Saturn in the sky.  The ISS was brighter than the planet Jupiter.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

The International Space Station passes Jupiter and Saturn this evening as seen across the Midwest.  A clearing sky permitted viewing this evening.  At its brightest, the ISS was easily brighter than Jupiter.

As for the planets, Jupiter is 8.0° to the right of Saturn.  Jupiter passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. 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.



  1. Is there a way to know whether Jupiter was especially prominent in the night sky over Europe when Mozart composed his Symphony 41- “Jupiter” in August of 1788? Seems like there could be an interesting story there!

    1. Jeffrey L. Hunt – Jeffrey L. Hunt is an educational technologist living in suburban Chicago. When he's not learning about and implementing technology in classes, he's running or looking at the stars.
      Jeffrey L. Hunt says:

      According to the computer program Starry Night, Jupiter was in the morning sky in August 1788 in front of the stars of Gemini. Venus entered the morning sky during the middle of the month along with Mercury. Venus, though, did not pass Jupiter in the morning sky during that year. The moon joined Venus and Jupiter on August 28 Earlier in the year (May 1), Venus passed about 2.5 degrees from Jupiter in the evening sky. The crescent moon, Jupiter, and Venus were together on May 8. If there was a journal or other notes documenting the association with the planet, that would be interesting to see.

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