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.
April 25, 2021: Mercury passes Evening Star Venus this evening after sunset. Look low in the western sky about 20 minutes after sunset. Mars is marching eastward in Gemini, near the star cluster Messier 35. The bright moon is near Spica.
April 25, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in front of the stars of Aquarius, while Saturn’s starry background is Capricornus.
April 24, 2021: Brilliant Evening Star Venus and bright Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are low in the west-northwest during evening twilight. The bright moon is in the southeast in Virgo. Mars moves into Gemini as it approaches the star cluster Messier 35.
April 24, 2021: The bright gibbous moon is near a star in Virgo during the early morning. From parts of the Western Hemisphere, the moon covers the star. Before sunrise, bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise.
April 23, 2021: Evening Star Venus and Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are found very low in the west-northwest after sunset. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the early evening. Mars is moving toward the star cluster Messier 35.