November 28, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 23 days. With a bright moon washing out the dimmer stars, Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest and Mars is in the east as the night begins.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:56 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:21 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The bright moon in the east washes out the dim stars in the sky, even those in the west. The chart above shows a reasonable view of the stars in the moon’s immediate vicinity. The Pleiades star cluster is about 10° to the left of the bright lunar orb. Block out the moon’s glare with your hand to attempt to see the cluster.
Ruddy Aldebaran is less than 20° to the lower left of the moon.
Mars is to the upper right of the nearly full moon, in the east-southeastern sky. The chart above is not realistic with the moon’s brightness, but a binocular reveals this starry background. The Red Planet is 1.6° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) and 2.0° to the upper right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc). With a binocular note that ε Psc, 80 Psc, and Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) make a tiny, equilateral triangle. Mars moves through the triangle during the next several evenings.
With Mars marching eastward compared to the planets, the nightly change in the planet’s location relative to the starry background is easy to spot.
Farther west, the seemingly slow-motion Great Conjunction continues to unfold. The two planets are about a quarter of the way up in the south-southwest as the sky darkens after sunset. Great Conjunction countdown: 23 days. Jupiter continues to close the gap to Saturn. This evening they are 2.4° apart.
In the starfield, Saturn is 3.5° to the upper left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart) and 4.8° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Sgr). Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sgr and 4.5° to the upper left of 52 Sagittarii (52 Sgr). With that bright moon in the east, use a binocular to see the planets and the dim reference stars.
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset. the bright gibbous moon (13.8d, 98%) is over 17° up in the east and over 10° to the right of the Pleiades. Mars is nearly 37° in altitude in the east-southeast, 1.6° to the lower right of ε Psc and 2.0° to the upper right of 80 Psc. The gap from Mars to δ Psc is 3.2°. Farther west, Saturn is nearly 22° in altitude in the south-southwest, 2.4° to the upper left of Jupiter. Great Conjunction countdown: 23 days. In the starfield, Saturn is 3.5° to the upper left of 56 Sgr and 4.8° to the lower right of σ Sgr. Jupiter is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sgr and 4.5° to the upper left of 52 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.