November 27, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 24 days. Jupiter and Saturn are in the west-southwest after sunset. The bright gibbous moon is in the east with Mars to its upper right.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:55 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:22 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The bright gibbous moon is in the eastern sky this evening in front of the stars of southern Aries. The lunar orb is nearly 24° to the lower left of bright Mars.
Block the moon’s glare to spot Hamal – “the Full Grown Lamb” – to the upper left of the moon. The star with two others nearby, mark the identifiable constellation Aries.
With the moon’s glare blocked, notice the Pleiades star cluster over 20 ° away to the moon’s lower left.
Bright, rusty Mars makes a triangle with Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and 80 Piscium (80 Psc). Because of the moon’s brightness, use a binocular to view the planet in front of the starry background. Mars marches eastward through Pisces. Notice that ε Psc. 80 Psc, and Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) make a tiny, equilateral triangle. With a binocular watch Mars move through the shape, during the next several evenings.
Meanwhile, the Great Conjunction of 2020 is 24 days away! The giant planet pair is over 20° up in the south-southwest. Bright Jupiter is 2.5° to the lower right of dim Saturn. Jupiter continues to close the gap to the Ringed Wonder. The change is noticeable each evening.
With a binocular, make nightly observations of the planets compared to the starfield. The bright moon in the eastern sky washes out the dimmer stars here as well. The stars closest to the planetary motion are dim. The planets make a triangle with 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart). Saturn is 3.4° to the upper left of the star, while Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left. Saturn is 4.9° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap), while Jupiter is 4.4° to the upper left of 52 Sagittarii (52 Sgr).
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset, the bright moon (12.8d, 95%), nearly 23° up in southern Aries, is over 14° to the lower right of Hamal (α Ari, m = 2.0). Notice that the lunar orb is nearly 22° to the upper right of the Pleiades (M45). Mars – over 36° up in the east-southeast – is nearly 24° to the upper right of the gibbous moon. In the starfield, the Red Planet makes a triangle with ε Psc and 80 Psc. It is 1.8° to the lower right of ε Psc and 2.1° to the upper right of 80 Psc. The planet is 3.1° to the lower left of δ Psc. Farther west, bright Jupiter is over 20° in altitude in the south-southwest, 2.5° to the lower right of Saturn. Great Conjunction countdown: 24 days. In the starfield, the giant planet pair makes a triangle with 56 Sgr. Saturn is 3.4° to the upper left of the star, while Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left. Saturn is 4.9° to the lower right of σ Cap, while Jupiter is 4.4° to the upper left of 52 Sgr.
Read more about the planets during November.
January 29, 2021: The moon blocks the star Eta Leonis from parts of the Western Hemisphere during the early evening.
January 26, 2021: Visible high in the south after sunset, Mars is in Aries heading for an early March conjunction with the Pleiades star cluster.
Depending on the latitude, the time of equal light and equal darkness occurs during early February.