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.
During the early evening hours of winter, the stars that shine from the southern sky are a sampler of the sky’s brightest stars.
January 21, 2021: Several bright stars are in the morning sky. This morning look for Antares in the east-southeast. Mercury – near its greatest elongation – is in the west-southwest after sunset. Mars and the moon are near each other. Planet Uranus is near Mars.
January 20, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The bright moon is to the lower right of Mars, while the Red Planet passes planet Uranus.