Mercury begins to join Morning Star Venus in the eastern sky before sunrise. The moon is in the morning sky in the west. Three evening planets are found after sunset, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Mars is in the east-southeast and the Jupiter – Saturn pair is in the south-southwest after sunset. Today is a heliocentric conjunction for Jupiter and Saturn.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:25 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:43 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in your location.
Today is a heliocentric conjunction for Jupiter and Saturn. As the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn nears, Jupiter passes Saturn if viewed from the sun. Read more here.
Today’s Special Note: Jupiter and Saturn are at heliocentric conjunction today. They have the same heliocentric longitude, 301°. As viewed from the sun, the planetary pair is in a conjunction. View from above the solar system, a line drawn from the sun extends through both planets. From our planet, the planets are 5.0° apart.
Morning: Brilliant Venus is less than one-third of the way up in the east-southeast before sunrise. It is approaching the star Gamma Virginis in the starfield. This morning, the planet is over 3° to the upper right of that star. Farther west, the bright moon – 16.7 days after the New moon phase and 97% illuminated – is about one-third of the way up in the west. It is over 10° to the lower right of the star Aldebaran. Your fist extended to arm’s length fits between the moon and the star in the sky.
Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury is visible near the star Spica. Both are very low in the east-southeast. The planet is 3.9° to the lower left of the star. Find a spot with a clear natural horizon in that direction. Use a binocular.
Morning detailed note: One hour before sunrise, Venus is over 20° up in the east-southeast. In the starfield, it is 1.4° to the lower left of η Vir and 4.0° to the upper right of Gamma Virginis (γ Vir). Venus is below a line that connects the two stars. Farther west, the moon (16.7d, 97%) is 29.0° above the western horizon. It is 6.1° to the lower left of the Pleiades and 10.6° to the lower right of Aldebaran (α Tau, m = 2.8). Fifteen minutes later, Mercury (m = 0.9) is over 5° up in altitude above the east-southeast horizon, 3.9° to the left of Spica.
Evening: Three bright planets are in the sky this evening. Mars is in the east-southeast among the dim stars of Pisces. It continues to retrograde – move westward compared to the stars. Farther west, Jupiter and Saturn are visible low in the south-southwest. Jupiter – 5.0° to the lower left of Saturn – continues to inch eastward toward Saturn toward the Great Conjunction of 2020 on December 21.
Evening detailed note: One hour after sunset, Mars is nearly 22° up in the east-southeast. In the starfield, it is 2.1° to the upper right of 80 Psc and 3.2° to the lower right of ε Psc. Farther west, Jupiter is about 24° up in the south-southwest. Dimmer Saturn is 5.0° to the upper left of the Jovian Giant. In the starfield, Saturn is 2.0° to the upper left of 56 Sgr, while Jupiter is 4.3° to the lower right of that star. Additionally, Jupiter is 1.2° to the lower left of 50 Sgr. Three hours after sunset, the moon (17.3d, 94%) is 3.9° to the upper left of Aldebaran and 0.8° to the upper left of Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau, m = 3.5). With the moon’s brightness, use a binocular to see the Hyades with Aldebaran and ε Tau to the lower right of the lunar orb.
Read more about the planets during November.
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.