Bright Jupiter and dimmer Saturn appear in the southern sky after sunset on September 30, 2020.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
As the sky darkens, look low in the southern sky for bright Jupiter and dimmer Saturn. They look like overly bright stars. Saturn is to Jupiter’s upper left.
Both planets are gradually moving eastward compared to the starry background. While they rise in the east and set in the west, they gradually move eastward compared to the stars.
Three stars are identified in the photo above: Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr on the photo), 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr) and 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).
The planets are moving in front of the stars of eastern Sagittarius. These dimmer stars are identified by Greek letters and numbers, along with the genitive form of Sagittarius, and its shorter form (Sgr).
During the next several weeks, watch the planets move eastward – to the left on the photo. A binocular is helpful to see the planets with the stars. Jupiter moves away from π Sgr and toward dim 50 Sgr. Eventually, Jupiter passes that star as well and begins to close in on Saturn for their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.
For the next several weeks, Saturn slowly moves away from 56 Sgr.
The motion is slow-moving and the anticipatory approach of Jupiter toward Saturn has been occurring since they emerged from the sun’s glare in the morning sky last winter.
Jupiter is now closing in on the Ringed Wonder.
Read more about the planets during October.
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.