Before sunrise the slightly gibbous moon is in Cancer, between Gemini and Leo, and near the Beehive star cluster. Morning Star Venus and Mercury continue their morning planet dance as they move through Virgo. In the evening, Mars is in the east, while Jupiter waltzes toward Saturn in the south-southwest.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:32 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:36 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in your location.
International Space Station pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 5:15 a.m. CST about a third of the way up in the northwest. It reaches its highest point about 86° up in the northeast at 5:17 a.m. CST. It disappears at 5:20 a.m. CST about 10° up in the southeast. This pass is very bright as the ISS goes nearly overhead. It passes Capella in the west, moves between Regulus and Denebola in Leo, and then to the right of brilliant Venus in the eastern sky.
Morning: Before morning twilight brightens, about an hour before sunrise, the slightly gibbous moon is between Pollux (Gemini) and Regulus (Leo). It is in front of the dim stars of Cancer and near a star cluster, cataloged as Messier 44 – the 44th entry on the 18th century catalog of dim, diffuse objects in the sky by Charles Messier. The star cluster is a clump of stars, similar to the Pleiades star cluster (Seven Sisters), but farther away and dimmer. The cluster is commonly referred to as the “Beehive” cluster. The moon is 8.4° to the left of the cluster. Extend your arm and make a fist. The angular distance from your thumb knuckle to your pinky is about 10°. Your fist nearly fits between the moon and the cluster’s location. Return when the moon is not so bright to look with a binocular. The cluster is about midway from Regulus to Pollux.
At this time, brilliant Venus is low in the east-southeast in front of the stars of Virgo. It is about 10° above Spica. Wait about 15 more minutes to see Mercury nearly 6° to the lower left of Spica.
The moon is a its Last Quarter phase at 7:46 a.m. CST.
Morning detailed note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (22.7d, 51%) is nearly 70° up in the south-southeast, nearly 15° to the upper right of Regulus (α Leo, m = 1.3). The moon is 8.4° to the left of M44. Farther eastward, Venus is nearly 19° up in the east-southeast. It is 3.6° below Gamma Virginis (γ Vir) and 10.8° above Spica. Mercury (m = −0.5) is 5.6° to the lower left of Spica. The star is about 8° in altitude. The Venus – Mercury gap is 13.9°. Fifteen minutes later Mercury is nearly 9° in altitude. The moon is at its Last Quarter phase at 7:46 a.m. CST.
Evening: Three bright planets are in the evening sky. As the sky darkens, locate Mars less than one-third of the way up in the east-southeast. It is in front of the dim stars of Pisces. It continues to retrograde – move westward compared to the starry background – for about another week. Watch it move compared to the starry background with a binocular.
Meanwhile, Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest. Jupiter is the bright “star” in that part of the sky. Saturn is 4.3° to the upper left of the Jovian Giant. The gap between them continues to close as Jupiter begins to overtake Saturn before their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. Because Jupiter and Saturn move slowly through their orbits, look at the starfield each clear evening to see the motion from night to night.
The giant planet duo is among the stars of Sagittarius. The brightest feature of the constellation is commonly called “The Teapot of Sagittarius.”
Jupiter sets before 9 p.m. CST.
For more information about Mars during November, see this article.
Evening detailed note: One hour after sunset, Mars is over 25° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon. It is 3.3° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and 3.5° below Delta Piscium (δ Psc). Farther west, Jupiter, nearly 24° up in the south-southwest, is 2.0° to the upper left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). Use a binocular to see the star with the planet. Jupiter is 3.5° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Saturn is 2.2° to the lower left of the same star. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 4.3°.
Read more about the planets during November.
December 8, 2020: The thick crescent moon is in the southern sky before sunrise. It is near the star Denebola, the Lion’s Tail. At that time, Venus is in the southeastern sky among the stars of Libra.
In the morning before sunrise, the slightly gibbous moon is in Leo, between Regulus and Denebola. Brilliant Morning Star Venus is low in the southeast, stepping eastward in Virgo. With the Great Conjunction in two weeks, Jupiter is near Saturn in the southwest after sunset. Mars marches eastward among the stars of Pisces.
As morning twilight is in progress, the moon is high in the southwest among the stars of Leo. It is near the “Sickle of Leo. At the same hour Morning Star Venus is dancing eastward in Libran near Zubenelgenubi. In the evening Mars is in the southeast, marching eastward in Pisces. In the southwest, Jupiter approaches Saturn as a prelude to the Great Conjunction in 15 days.