November 22, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 29 days. Jupiter and Saturn are paired together in the south-southwest as Jupiter approaches the Ringed Wonder. The gibbous moon is in the south. Mars resumes its eastward march in Pisces.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:49 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:24 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Three bright evening planets and the gibbous moon are visible in the sky after sunset. Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest, while Mars is in the east-southeast as the sky darkens after sunset. The moon is in the south-southeast.
Jupiter and Saturn are 29 days away from their Great Conjunction. One hour after sunset, they are about a quarter way up in the sky in the south-southwest. Bright Jupiter looks like an overly bright star. Saturn is dimmer and 3.0° to Jupiter’s upper left.
Jupiter continues to close the gap on Saturn. Each evening the change is noticeable. With a binocular observe them each evening move compared to the star 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr) on the chart. Saturn is 3.0° to the left of the star, while Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sgr.
The moon is east of the Jupiter-Saturn pair. Notice it is over 16° to the upper left of Fomalhaut – the Mouth of the Fish – the brightest star in the Pisces Austrinus, the southern fish. The star appears in the evening sky after sunset each autumn.
Mars is farther east from the moon. It is over one-third of the way up in the east-southeast. It is moving eastward each night in front of the stars of Pisces. The Red Planet is 2.5° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) and 2.9° to the lower left of Delta Piscium (δ Psc), two dim stars. Use a binocular to spot the starfield behind Mars.
Mars is picking up eastward speed after its retrograde motion ended over a week ago. Retrograde motion is an illusion as Earth passes the planets farther from the sun. It’s been “hanging around” ε Psc and δ Psc for several days as its retrograde motion ended and it resumed its eastward march.
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset, the slightly gibbous moon (7.8d, 58%) – over 32° up in the south-southeast – is 2.3° to the upper left of Delta Aquarii (δ Aqr, m =3.2). Look carefully to note that the moon is over 16° to the upper left of Fomalhaut (α PsA, m = 1.2). Farther eastward, Mars (m = −1.4) is over 33° up in the east-southeast. Moving eastward in Pisces, it is 2.5° to the lower right of ε Psc and 2.9° to the lower left of δ Psc. Jupiter is about 21° up in the south-southwest with Saturn 3.0° to its upper left. Twenty-nine days until the Great Conjunction. In the starfield, Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sgr and 3.7° to the upper left of 52 Sgr. Saturn is 3.0° to the left of 56 Sgr.
Read more about the planets during November.
October 9, 2021: Look for brilliant Venus, crescent moon, and the head of Scorpius in the southwest after sunset. About every eight years, Venus and the moon appear near the head of the Scorpion after sunset. Look for them about 45 minutes after sunset.
October 1, 2021: Before sunrise, the lunar crescent is near the Beehive star cluster.
Newly released analysis from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that the Arabia Terra region on Mars experienced powerful volcanic eruptions.
September 30, 2021: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon is near the Gemini Twins.
September 29, 2021: The thick crescent moon is in the southeast before sunrise, approaching the middle of Gemini. The evening planet pack is visible after sunset.