A New moon is visible low in the western sky after sunset. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible during the night. Jupiter continues to close the gap to Saturn before the Great Conjunction of 2020.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:06 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:05 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.
Morning: An hour before sunrise brilliant Venus is visible less than one-third of the way up in the sky in the east-southeast. The planet is stepping eastward in front of the stars of Leo, near three dimmer stars Chi Leonis (χ Leo), Sigma Leonis (σ Leo) and Iota Leonis (ι Leo). Use a binocular to find Venus with the stars. At this time, bright Mars is low in the west.
Spica rises at sunrise this morning – its Cosmic Rising – while Arcturus is at its solar conjunction today, as the sun and star share the same celestial longitude. It’s hardly a conjunction in the traditional sense. Arcturus is over 30° north of the sun.
Detailed morning note: One hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus is over 23° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon. Moving eastward in Leo, the brilliant planet is 2.4° below χ Leo, 1.8° to the upper right of σ Leo, and 5.0° to the lower right of ι Leo. While bright, Mars is about 7° up in the west. How much longer can you see it at this time interval before sunrise?
Evening: In the evening, look for the crescent moon low in the west-southwest, 30 minutes after sunset. Find a good location to view the natural horizon. Jupiter and Saturn are in the south, 6.3° apart. Jupiter continues to slowly close the gap to the Ringed Wonder. Use a binocular to view Jupiter and Saturn against the starfield of eastern Sagittarius. Mars – just past its opposition with the sun – continues to retrograde in Pisces. The planet climbs into the eastern sky as the night progresses. Find it in the western sky tomorrow morning.
Detailed evening note: Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon (1.2d, 3%) is nearly 4° up in the west-southwest. Saturn is 90° east of the sun. One hour after sunset, it is 27° up in the south, now past the meridian at this time interval. The Ringed Wonder is 6.3° to the upper left of Jupiter (m = −2.2). In the starfield, Jupiter is 3.3° to the lower left of π Sgr and 1.1° to the lower right of 50 Sgr. Saturn is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sgr. An hour later, Mars is over 22° up in the east-southeast. ζ Psc, Mars, and 89 Psc are in a line. Mars is 2.5° to the lower right of ζ Psc and 1.5° to the upper left of 89 Psc.
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.