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.
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.