Look for the crescent moon to the lower right of Jupiter and Saturn after sunset in the south-southwest. Jupiter continues to move closer to Saturn as the Great Conjunction approaches on December 21, 2020. Rusty Mars shines from the eastern sky from in front of the stars of Pisces.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:45 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:27 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This evening, the crescent moon that is 18% illuminated is in the south-southwest after sunset. The lunar sliver is about 7° to the lower right of bright Jupiter and nearly 5° to the upper right of Nunki, a star in the handle of the “Teapot of Sagittarius.” The crescent is below a line from Jupiter to the star.
The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 3.4°. Jupiter continues to make a seemingly slow-motion approach to Saturn as a prelude to the Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.
Look for the planets as soon as the sky darkens after sunset. The chart above shows them about one hour after sunset.
In the starfield, Jupiter and Saturn continue to slowly move eastward compared to the background of stars. Use a binocular to spot the giant-planet pair near 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart). Jupiter is 2.2° below the star, while Saturn is 2.8° to the left of the star.
Farther east, Mars is slowly moving eastward after it reversed its course several days ago after the completion of its retrograde motion. It is over one-third of the way up in the sky during evening twilight. Among the stars it is 2.9° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) and 2.9° below Delta Piscium (δ Psc).
Mars sets in the west about 3:30 a.m. CST or about 3.5 hours before sunrise and before Venus rises in the east.
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset look for the crescent moon (3.8d, 18%) over 16° in altitude in the south-southwest. It is a below a line from Nunki (σ Sgr, m = 2.0) to Jupiter. The moon is 6.8° to the lower right of Jupiter and 4.9° to the upper left of Nunki. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 3.4°. Jupiter is to the lower right of Saturn. Among the stars Jupiter is 2.2° below 56 Sgr, while Saturn is 2.8° to the left of the star. Jupiter is 3.3° above 52 Sgr. Farther east, Mars (m = −1.5) is over 31° up in the east-southeast, 2.9° to the lower right of ε Psc and 2.9° below δ Psc.
Read more about the planets during November.
December 30, 2021: The morning crescent moon seems to be captured in the Scorpion’s pincers to the upper right of Mars. Four Evening Planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the southwest after sundown.
December 28, 2021: The Great Andromeda Galaxy is nearly overhead at the end of the evening twilight.
December 29, 2021: The morning crescent moon approaches Scorpius and Mars. In the evening sky, four evening planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are lined up in the southwest. Venus is rapidly leaving the evening sky.
November 28, 2021: During twilight this evening, the three bright evening planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are on parade in the southwestern sky.
December 28, 2021: Brilliant Venus is quickly slipping from the evening sky. Mercury appears beneath Venus after sunset. This duo is joined by Jupiter and Saturn. In the morning, Mars is near Antares and the moon near Spica.