November 23, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 28 days. Jupiter and Saturn are paired together in the south-southwest as Jupiter approaches the Ringed Wonder. The gibbous moon is in the southeast to the right of Mars. The Red Planet marches eastward in Pisces.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:50 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:24 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The bright gibbous moon is over one-third of the way up in the southeast. It is among very dim stars in eastern Aquarius. The moon is over two-thirds illuminated and showers the sky with its reflected sunlight, overriding the dim stars.
Mars is over 20° to the left of the lunar orb. It is marching eastward in Pisces. While the stars behind Mars are washed out by the moon’s brightness, use a binocular to see them.
The planet’s eastward march is resuming after it finished retrograding earlier this month. Its position compared to Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) and Delta Piscium (δ Psc) changes each evening. This evening the Red Planet is 2.4° to the lower right of ε Psc.
Farther west, Jupiter continues to approach Saturn. The Great Conjunction is 4 weeks away. This event has been playing out all year. A summary of the year’s slow approach can be found here. An hour after sunset, the planet pair is low in the south-southwest. Jupiter is the overly bright star and Saturn is 2.9° to Jupiter’s upper left.
Use a binocular to observe that Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sgr and 3.8° to the upper left of 52 Sgr. Saturn is 3.1° to the upper left of 56 Sgr. With these early sunsets, be sure to observe them early. Jupiter sets a few minutes after 8 p.m. CST, about 3 hours, 40 minutes after sunset.
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset, the moon (8.8d, 67%) – over 33° in altitude above the southeast horizon – is in eastern Aquarius. It is over 24° to the right of Mars, that has about the same altitude as the lunar orb. The planet is 2.4° to the lower right of ε Psc and 2.9° to the lower left of δ Psc. Farther west, bright Jupiter is over 21° in altitude in the south-southwest, 2.9° to the lower right of Saturn. Twenty-eight days until the Great Conjunction. In the starfield, Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sgr and 3.8° to the upper left of 52 Sgr. Saturn is 3.1° to the upper left of 56 Sgr.
Read more about the planets during November.
May 28, 2021: This evening Mercury passes brilliant Venus for the second of three conjunctions during this evening apparition of the second planet from the sun. Use a binocular about 45 minutes after sunset to see the speedy planet 0.4° to the lower left of Venus. This is the closest visible conjunction until 2033.
May 24, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. In the evening sky, brilliant Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars line up along the solar system’s plane. The bright moon is in the southeast near Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw.”
May 23, 2021: Five bright planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise in the southeastern sky. The star Fomalhaut is becoming visible below bright Jupiter and near the horizon. After sundown, Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the nighttime hours.
May 22, 2021: Five planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Evening Star Venus, Mercury and Mars are in the western sky after sunset. A bright moon is in the southeastern sky.
May 21, 2021: Three bright planets are dancing in the western sky after sundown. Evening Star Venus is entering the sky for a months-long residency after its solar conjunction two months ago. Mercury is heading for a conjunction with Venus after its best evening appearance of the year. Mars continues its eastward march in Gemini, but time is running out on its appearance as it approaches brighter evening twilight and a conjunction with Venus.