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.
November 3, 2021: Before sunrise speedy planet Mercury, the crescent moon, and the star Spica are grouped together. The trio does not appear this close together again until 2033.
October 31, 2021: There is no Halloween Full moon this year, and the phase is not close. The crescent moon is in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east-southeast before sunrise. The planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – gleam in the evening sky.
October 29, 2021: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun. It is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon and Mercury are in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 29 – November 1, 2021: The crescent moon moves in front of the stars of Leo in the eastern sky before sunrise. Watch the moon appear lower and the phase shrink (wane) each morning. Also note that there is no Full moon on Halloween this year!
October 26, 27, and 28, 2021: During the early morning hours, the bright gibbous moon appears in front of Gemini’s stars.