2020, October 16: Winter Triangle in South

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2020, October 16: One hour before sunrise, the Winter Triangle – Sirius, Procyon, and Betelgeuse – in the southern sky.

The Winter Triangle is in the south before sunrise. During the nighttime hours four bright planets are visible: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:05 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:07 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

Morning: Look for Sirius, Procyon, and Betelgeuse – the Winter Triangle – in the south one hour before sunrise. The bright planets resemble overly bright stars.  An hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus sparkles in the east in front of the stars of Leo.  It continues its eastward steps in front of that starry background.  Mars is retrograding in eastern Pisces.  The planet shines brightly from low in the western sky.  Venus and Mars even outshine Sirius, the night’s brightest star that is low in the southern sky at this hour.

2020, October 16: During pre-twilight hours, Mars is about one-third of the way up in the west southwest. In the starfield, Mars is 3.1° to the lower right of Mu Piscium (μ Psc), 1.5° to the upper right of 89 Piscium (89 Psc), and 2.6° to the lower right of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc).

Detailed morning note: One hour before sunrise, Venus is nearly 24° up in the east-southeast, 1.2° below Chi Leonis (χ Leo), 3.0° to the upper right of Sigma Leonis (σ Leo, m = 4.0), and 5.3° to the right of Iota Leo (ι Leo).  Use a binocular to see the starfield. Farther west along the ecliptic, Mars is about 8° above the western horizon. Spica is at its solar conjunction today.  The Sun – Spica gap is 2.0°.  The moon reaches its New Moon phase at 2:31 p.m. CDT, followed by its perigee (221,775 miles away) at 6:46 p.m. CDT. 

2020, October 16: Venus shines brightly in the eastern sky in front of the stars of Leo. In the starfield, the planet is 1.2° below Chi Leonis (χ Leo), 3.0° to the upper right of Sigma Leonis (σ Leo), and 5.3° to the right of Iota Leo (ι Leo). Denebola – the Tail of Leo – is over 12° to the lower left of the planet.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Evening:  Jupiter and Saturn continue to shine from the southern sky after sunset.  Jupiter sets in the southwest a few minutes after 11 p.m. CDT, and Saturn sets about 11:40 p.m.  Jupiter continues to close in on Saturn for their Great Conjunction later in the year.  Meanwhile, rusty Mars sparkles in the eastern sky.  It is a few days past its opposition with the sun.  So, it rises in the east when the sun sets in the west and sets in the west as the sunrises in the east.  The Red Planet is slowly retrograding among the stars of Pisces.  Look each evening to notice the changing position of the planet compared to the dim stars.

Detailed evening note:  One hour after sunset, Mars is nearly 11° in altitude in the east.  Farther west along the ecliptic, Saturn is nearly 27° up in the south, and 6.3° to the upper left of bright Jupiter.  Among the stars, Saturn is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Jupiter is 3.2° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 1.2° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  Two hours after sunset, Mars – retrograding in Pisces – is 22.0° up in the east-southeast.  In the starfield, Mars is 3.3° to the upper right of Mu Piscium (μ Psc), 1.5° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc), and 2.5° to the lower right of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc).

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

2021, January 21: Morning Stars, Evening Bright Moon

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.



Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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