On September 24, the Moon visits the “Teapot” shape of Sagittarius with the moon nearby.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
During the early evening of September 24, look in the south for the gibbous moon that is 60% illuminated. Bright Jupiter is 4.2° to the upper left of the lunar orb. Dimmer Saturn is to Jupiter’s upper left.
Look carefully at the stars to the lower right of the gibbous moon. They are the main stars of the constellation Sagittarius. The stars resemble a kitchen teapot. The star Nunki, cataloged as Sigma Sagittarii (σ Sgr), is part of the Teapot’s handle. Use a binocular, if necessary, to see the shape.
Jupiter is moving eastward compared to the starry background. Saturn retrogrades, an illusion of moving westward that occurs when the faster moving Earth passes between the sun and the slower moving outer planets.
Next week, Saturn resumes its eastward motion as Jupiter continues to close the gap to the Ringed Wonder toward their 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.
Here’s where the moon is on the next evening.
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.