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.
October 23, 2021: This morning the bright moon is near the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. In the evening sky, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot.
October 22. 2021: Speedy Mercury is low in the east before sunrise. It is putting on its best morning performance of the year. Arcturus, in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude as Mercury.
October 21-November 1, 2021: Brilliant Venus steps through Ophiuchus to the upper left of the star Antares in the southwest after sunset . Afterward, the planet steps farther eastward.
October 21, 2021: The bright moon is low in the west about an hour before sunrise. Mercury is in the east at about the same altitude as Arcturus. Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter shine from the evening sky.
December 18, 2021: This is the anticipated launch date of the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most sophisticated space telescope view the universe.