Astronomy

2020, November 9: Morning Planet Dance, Moonbeams, Evening Planets

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2020, November 9, 2020: One hour before sunrise, the moon is near Regulus.

The moon is very close to a bright star in Leo for northern North America, while it is covered by the moon for regions farther south. Morning Star Venus shines brightly in the east before sunrise.  Along with Mercury, Venus dances in front of the stars of Virgo.  After this morning, Venus and Mars do not appear in the morning sky together for the remainder of 2020. In the evening Mars shines from Pisces, while Jupiter approaches Saturn as a prelude to the Great Conjunction.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:34 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:35 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times at your location.

International Space Station pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 4:30 a.m. CST about half way up in the east-northeast. This is the station’s high point of this appearance.  It moves toward the east-southeast, moving to the right of Venus.  It disappears about 10° up in the east-southeast at 4:32 a.m. CST.  Another pass begins 10° up in the west at 6:03 a.m.  It is highest at 19° in the southwest, and disappears from view at 6:08 a.m.  This occurs less than 30 minutes before sunrise.  Look carefully for it moving in the western sky.  The ISS moves below Taurus, below Orion’s belt and very close to Sirius.

Morning: Around 3 a.m. CST for observers at the mid-northern latitudes and farther north in North America, the moon is very close to the star Eta Leonis (η Leo).  Use a binocular or spotting scope to see the moon below the star.  For observers farther south, the moon covers or occults the star. See this web page for locations and occultation times if you live in southern North America, Central America or northern South America.

Venus and Mars are no longer seen in the sky together.  This morning, Mars sets as Venus rises.  After this morning Mars sets before Venus appears above the eastern horizon.  They will be together again next summer in the evening sky.

About one hour before sunrise, the thick crescent moon is 1.1° to the lower left of η Leo and 4.1° to the upper left of Regulus.

2020, November 9, 2020: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, brilliant Venus is in the east-southeast,4.8° to the lower left of Gamma Virginis (γ Vir) and 9.7° above Spica. Mercury is 6.2° to the lower left of Spica.

Farther east, Venus and Mercury shine from in front of Virgo.  Look for them in the east about 45 minutes before sunrise.  Venus is below Gamma Virginis (γ Vir on the chart) and nearly 10° above Spica.  Extend your fist to arm’s length.  The distance from your thumb knuckle to your pinky finger is about 10°.   Use that measure to find Spica from Venus.  Mercury is 6.2° to the lower left of Spica, a little more than half a fist away.

Morning detailed note: At 3:05 a.m. CST, the lunar limb is about 3’ from Eta Leonis (η Leo, m = 3.5).  From locations farther south in the USA, the moon occults the star.  If you need a road trip, see this web page for locations and occultation times.   Venus and Mars are at opposition. They are 180° apart.  Venus rises in the east as Mars sets in the west. Mars sets a few minutes before 4 a.m. CST.  This leaves Venus and Mercury as the morning planets.  Mercury is in its best morning apparition of the year. One hour before sunrise, the moon (23.7d, 40%) is about 60° up in the southeastern sky.  It is 1.1° to the lower left of Eta Leonis and 4.1° to the upper left of Regulus.  Farther eastward, Venus – nearly 19° up in the east-southeast – is 4.8° to the lower left of γ Vir and 9.7° above Spica.  Mercury is 6.2° to the lower left of Spica, about 9° in altitude.  Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is over 9° in altitude in the east-southeast.

See our summary about Venus during November 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Evening: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the evening sky after sunset.  Bright Mars is in the east southeast in front of the dim stars of Pisces.  It is retrograding, moving westward compared to the starry background.  In a few evenings it reverses its course and begins moving eastward – the normal direction.

2020, November 9, 2020: One hour before sunrise is in east-southeast, 3.3° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and 3.4° below Delta Piscium (δ Psc).

Use a binocular to spot the dimmer stars.  This evening the Red Planet makes nearly a small equilateral triangle with Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) and Delta Piscium (δ Psc).

Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest.  This evening the gap between them is 4.3°.  Jupiter is slowly moving toward Saturn as a run-up to the Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.  As with Mars, use a binocular to make nightly observations of their places compared to the stars.  The binocular may reveal up to 4 of Jupiter’s largest moons.

For more about Mars during November, see this article.

Evening detailed note: One hour after sunset, Saturn is over 25° in altitude in the south-southwest, 4.3° to the upper left of Jupiter.  In the starfield, Saturn is 2.3° to the lower left of 56 Sgr while Jupiter is 3.3° to the lower right of the same star.  Jupiter is 2.2° to the upper left of 50 Sgr. Mars (m = −1.8) – nearly 26° up in the east-southeast – is 3.3° to the lower right of ε Psc and 3.4° below δ Psc.  Mars is nearing the end of its retrograde as viewed in ecliptic coordinates.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during November.

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