The brilliant Morning Star Venus continues to step through Virgo. It is that “bright star in the eastern sky” before sunrise. This morning Venus is near Beta Virginis. In the evening sky, the gibbous moon is between Mars and Jupiter, and near the star Fomalhaut. Mars is in the east-southeast. Jupiter and Saturn are in the east-southeast.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:54 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for other locations.
International Space Station Pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 6:04 a.m. CDT in the west-southwest. It reaches its highest point about 65° up in the north-northwest at 6:06 a.m. CDT. It disappears at 6:09 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the northeast. Find an unobstructed view to the north and east. The ISS passes near the Pleiades in the west, passes higher in the sky near the star Capella, and passes the Big Dipper in the northeast before it disappears. The ISS makes a 17 second appearance in the east, altitude 11°, at 4:31 a.m. CDT.
Morning: Mars and Venus appear farther apart in the morning sky. Venus continues stepping eastward in Virgo as Mars retrogrades in Pisces. About two hours before sunrise, Mars is nearly 9° up in the west, and Venus has an altitude of 11° in the east. Mars is no longer seen in the sky at the same time as Venus after November 9 when they are in opposite directions from Earth. Mars sets as Venus rises, a Venus – Mars opposition. Mars and Venus are visible in the sky together next spring when both appear in the evening sky.
This morning, about an hour before sunrise, Venus is 0.9° to the upper left of Beta Virginis (β Vir on the chart above). With a binocular note that Venus, β Vir, and Nu Virginis (ν Vir) nearly make a line.
Today, Mercury is at inferior conjunction, between Earth and Sun. It rapidly races into the morning sky. Look for it next month, low in the eastern sky before sunrise, below Venus. The speedy planet makes its best morning appearance of the year next month.
Detailed morning note: Now setting about 70 minutes before sunrise, Mars is nearly 9° up in the west, two hours before sunrise. At this hour Venus is about 11° up in the east. The Venus – Mars gap is 159.0° of ecliptic longitude. Within three weeks, Mars sets before Venus rises, a Venus – Mars opposition. The brilliant planet passes 0.9° to the upper left of Beta Virginis (β Vir). One hour before sunrise, find them nearly 22° in altitude in the east-southeast. With a binocular notice that NuVirginis (ν Vir), Venus, and β Vir are nearly in a line. Venus is 3.9° to the lower right of ν Vir. Through a telescope, Venus is 13.6” across and 80% illuminated, a morning gibbous phase. Mercury is at inferior conjunction at 1:23 p.m. CDT. It quickly emerges into the morning sky for its best morning apparition of the year.
Evening: The moon and three planets shine during the evening hours. The bright gibbous moon is among the stars of Aquarius.
One hour after sunset, the moon is in the south-southeast above the star Fomalhaut. The lunar orb appears nearly between Mars and Jupiter. Mars is in the east-southeast, while bright Jupiter is in the south-southwest. Saturn is 5.6° to the upper left of Jupiter.
(See our Mars summary for October here.)
The giant-planet pair is slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background of Sagittarius. Jupiter overtakes Saturn on December 21, 2020 for a Great Conjunction.
Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the moon (9.2d, 74%) is nearly 26° up in the south-southeast in Aquarius. Use a binocular to spot Delta Aquarii (δ Aqr, m =3.2), 8.1° to the lower left of the gibbous moon. Saturn is nearly 27° up in the south, 5.6° to the upper left of bright Jupiter. Both planets are moving eastward in Sagittarius. In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr). Jupiter is 4.1° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 0.6° below 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). At this hour, Mars is over 16° up in the east. The Mars – Jupiter gap is 87.4° of ecliptic longitude. This gap continues to close until Mars resumes its eastward direction next month. Then the gap widens relatively quickly. Two hours after sunset, the Red Planet is over 27° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon. In the starfield, Mars is 0.9° to the lower right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc) and 3.2° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc). At this hour, Saturn is nearly 24° up in the south-southwest with Jupiter to its lower right.
Read more about the planets during October.
December 11, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 10 days! Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southwest as night falls. Jupiter continues to close the gap to the Ringed Wonder. Farther eastward, Mars marches eastward in Pisces.
December 11, 2020: As sunrise approaches, the crescent moon is to the upper right of the brilliant planet Venus.
December 10, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 11 days. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwest as night falls. Bright Mars is in the southeast.