Mars and Morning Star Venus are nearing their opposition so that they do not appear together in the morning sky for the remainder of 2020. In the evening sky, three planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – along with the moon, are easy to locate.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:13 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:56 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-southwest. It reaches its highest point about 44° up in the southeast at 6:05 a.m. CDT. It disappears at 6:08 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the east-northeast. Find an unobstructed view to the south and east. The ISS moves below Sirius in the south-southwest, beneath Regulus and above Venus in the east. The station is brighter than Sirius and dimmer than Venus. This is an excellent opportunity to see the passage of the ISS across the sky.
Morning: It’s time to make the “last call” to see Mars and Venus in the morning sky together for the rest of 2020. Mars is low in the west 90 minutes before sunrise, while Venus is about 15° up in the east. On November 9, the planets are in opposition – appear in opposite directions in the sky. Mars sets in the west as Venus rises in the east. What is the last day you see Venus in the eastern sky and Mars in the western morning sky? When Venus moves back into the evening sky next year, they again appear in the sky at the same time. As Venus rises higher, the starfield of Virgo becomes easier to see. The planet is near the stars Nu Virginis (ν Vir) and Beta Virginis (β Vir).
Detailed morning note: Ninety minutes before sunrise, Mars is over 5° up in the west. The planet sets one hour before sunrise this morning. At this hour, brilliant Venus is over 22° in altitude in the east-southeast. Venus is in Virgo. It moves through the constellation in 36 days. In the starfield, the planet is 3.2° to the lower right of ν Vir and 3.0° above β Vir. The moon reaches its First Quarter phase at 8:23 a.m. CDT.
Evening: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the evening sky. Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest as a prelude to the Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.8°. Saturn is to the upper left of Jupiter. The planets are slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background of eastern Sagittarius. (See the starry background for Jupiter and Saturn here.) Jupiter sets in the southwest before 10:45 p.m. CDT. The slightly gibbous moon is to the lower left of Saturn. Farther eastward, bright Mars is retrograding among dim stars in Pisces. The Red Planet sets tomorrow morning about an hour before sunrise. (See our Mars summary for October here.)
Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the slightly gibbous moon (7.2 days after the New moon phase, 55% illuminated), 25.0° up in the south in southwest Capricornus, is 11° to the lower left of Saturn. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.8°. In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sgr. Jupiter is 3.9° to the lower left of π Sgr and 0.6° below 50 Sgr. At this hour, Mars is over 15° in altitude in the east. Two hours after sunset, Mars is 25° in altitude in the east-southeast. The Red Planet is 0.8° to the lower right of 80 Psc and 3.4° to the lower right of ε Psc.
Read more about the planets during October.
November 3, 2021: Before sunrise speedy planet Mercury, the crescent moon, and the star Spica are grouped together. The trio does not appear this close together again until 2033.
October 31, 2021: There is no Halloween Full moon this year, and the phase is not close. The crescent moon is in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east-southeast before sunrise. The planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – gleam in the evening sky.
October 29, 2021: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun. It is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon and Mercury are in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 29 – November 1, 2021: The crescent moon moves in front of the stars of Leo in the eastern sky before sunrise. Watch the moon appear lower and the phase shrink (wane) each morning. Also note that there is no Full moon on Halloween this year!
October 26, 27, and 28, 2021: During the early morning hours, the bright gibbous moon appears in front of Gemini’s stars.