Morning Star Venus and Mars are approaching the date when they do not appear in the morning sky again for the remainder of the year. The lunar crescent appears among the stars of Sagittarius, near giant planets Jupiter and Saturn as they approach their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:11 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:59 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.
International Space Station Pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 6:02 a.m. CDT low in the south. It reaches its highest point about 16° up in the southeast at 6:04 a.m. CDT. It disappears at 6:06 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the east. Find an unobstructed view to the south and east. The ISS moves below Venus.
Morning: Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the eastern sky before sunrise. It continues to step eastward in front of the stars of Leo. It passes the Lion’s tail, Denebola, is morning, although the separation is nearly 11°. Your fist extended to arm’s length should fit between the blazing planet and the star.
In a few mornings, Venus moves into Virgo. This morning it is 4.0° to the upper right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir on the chart.)
One hour before sunrise Mars is low in the west. The planets are approaching their opposition (Venus – Mars opposition). When Mars sets in the morning, Venus rises in the east. After early November, Mars sets before Venus rises. Mercury begins a morning appearance during early November, joining Venus in the eastern sky. Mars returns to the eastern sky after sunset this evening.
Detailed morning note: Venus passes 10.9° to the lower right of Denebola (β Leo, m = 2.1). In the starfield closer to Venus, the planet is 3.0° to the lower left of σ Leo and 1.8° to the upper left of τ Leo. In a few mornings, Venus moves into Virgo. This morning Venus is 4.0° to the upper right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir, m = 4.0). One hour before sunrise, find the brilliant planet over 22° up in the east-southeast. If you have a clear horizon to the west, you might find bright Mars over 2° above the horizon.
Evening: The sun is now setting for Chicago before 6 p.m. CDT. When does it set before 6 p.m. at your location?
Bright Mars appears in the eastern sky after sunset, while Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest. The crescent moon that is 5.2 days after the New moon phase and 33% illuminated appears in Sagittarius to the west (right) of Jupiter and Saturn. The moon is between Kaus Borealis and Nunki. Because of the moon’s brightness and their proximity to the horizon, use a binocular to see the starfields with the moon and planets.
Mars is retrograding among the dim stars of Pisces. This motion is an illusion as our planet passed the Red Planet (opposition) last week and pulls away. (See our Mars summary for October here.)
The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.0°. Jupiter continues to inch toward Saturn for the Great Conjunction of 2020. (See the starry background for Jupiter and Saturn here.)
For the evening planets, use a binocular each clear evening to spot the planets’ positions compared to the starry background.
Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the crescent moon (5.2d, 33%), nearly 20° up in the south-southwest, is over 10° to the lower right of Jupiter. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.0°. Look carefully at the moon’s location in Sagittarius. It is nearly between Kaus Borealis and Nunki (σ Sgr) and 1.7° to the upper right of Phi Sagittarii (φ Sgr). In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Jupiter is 3.7° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 0.8° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). An hour later, Mars is 25.0° up in the east-southeast. It continues to retrograde in Pisces. This evening it is 1.0° to the lower left of 80 Psc and 2.0° to the upper right of 89 Psc – slightly to the right of a line that connects the two stars.
Read more about the planets during October.