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2020, December: Mars Marches Eastward in Pisces

Mars from Hubble during 2018

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photographed Mars on July 18, 2018, during a dust storm and near its closest approach to Earth since 2003. (NASA photo)

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2020, December: Mars moves eastward among the dim stars of Pisces. Use a binocular to track the planet in the starfield.

Mars marches eastward in Pisces during December.  After its retrograde ended last month, the planet slowly began its eastward traverse.  Now, the planet rapid strides eastward among the dim stars.

Find the planet high in the southeast after sunset.  It has a distinctly reddish color and brighter than other stars in the region. It is south about 8 p.m. CST, approximately 3 hours, 30 minutes after local sunset. By 2:30 a.m. CST, about 4 hours, 30 minutes before sunrise, Mars sets in the west.

At month’s end, Mars is in the south by 2 hours, 30 minutes after sunset.  It sets in the west about 5 hours, 30 minutes before sunrise.

2020, December 1: One hour after sunset, bright rusty Mars is in the east-southeastern sky. The planet is 1.2° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and 1.7° to the upper right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc).

On December 1, the planet is near Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and 80 Piscium (80 Psc).  With a binocular watch the planet move into a dim, tiny triangle of stars made by Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc), ε Psc, and 80 Psc. 

2020, December 7: Mars is inside a triangle formed by dim stars Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc), Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc), and 80 Piscium (80 Psc). It is 1.2° to the lower left of ε Psc and 1.5° to the upper right of ζ Psc. It is to the right of a line from ε Psc to ζ Psc.

As the planet moves away from the tiny triangle, it heads toward the general region of Pi Piscium (π Psc).  Look at a wider view as Mars travels toward the Pleiades star cluster. The Red Planet reaches that region during early March.

2020, December 23: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 55° up in the south-southeast. The gibbous moon is 5.6° to the lower left of Mars.

On December 23, the gibbous moon joins Mars for a nearly all-night trek across the sky.

Watch Mars march eastward during the month of December 2020.

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