November 26, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 25 days. Jupiter passes a dim celestial signpost and won’t return until 2032. Jupiter continues to close the gap to Saturn. In the east, the bright moon is near Mars.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:54 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:22 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
To demonstrate Jupiter’s long orbital period (11.86 years), the planet passes the dim star 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart). The star has been a reliable, but dim, signpost to watch the planetary motions of Jupiter and Saturn during the year.
When the Jovian Giant passes this way again, during a triple conjunction with the star, Jupiter first passes 56 Sgr on March 10, 2032. As Jupiter retrogrades, a second conjunction occurs, August 2. The third conjunction occurs November 1, 2032.
From this triple conjunction the next great conjunction is still 8 years away (October 31, 2040). By this date, Saturn has moved farther eastward compared to the starry background. Jupiter then overtakes the Ringed Wonder for the next Great Conjunction.
Meanwhile, the Great Conjunction of 2020 is 25 days away!
This evening Jupiter passes 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sgr. Saturn is 3.3° to the upper left of the star and 4.9° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap). With the bright moon in the eastern sky, use a binocular to view the starry background.
Farther eastward, the bright gibbous moon is to the lower left of rusty Mars. As with the starry background near Jupiter and Saturn, use a binocular to spot Mars 2.0° to the lower right of ε Psc, 3.0° to the lower left of δ Psc, and 2.2° to the upper right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc).
The stars ε Psc, 80 Psc, and Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) form nearly an equilateral triangle. Watch Mars approach and move through the shape during the next several evenings.
The moon is at apogee at 6:29 p.m. CDT, 252,193 miles away.
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
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.