2020, December 3: Morning Star Venus in East, Evening Planet Dance

Venus in Libra, December 3, 2020
2020, December 3: One hour before sunrise, Venus – low in the east-southeast – is 1.3° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi and 0.5° to the lower right of Mu Librae (μ Lib).

Brilliant Morning Star Venus waltzes eastward among the stars of Libra.  It is near the star Zubenelgenubi.  Farther west, the bright gibbous moon is near the middle of Gemini beneath the Twins.  In the evening, Mars dances eastward among the dim stars of Pisces.  Jupiter closes the gap on Saturn as a prelude dance to the Great Conjunction, 18 evenings away.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:01 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in your location. Add the time intervals in the notes to your local sunrise or sunset times.

Venus, December 3, 2020
2020, December 3: One hour before sunrise, Venus – low in the east-southeast – is 1.3° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi.

Morning: Brilliant Morning Star Venus is the lone bright planet in the morning sky before sunrise.  It is “that bright star” in the eastern sky before sunrise.  Looking eastward one hour before sunrise, the brilliant planet is stepping eastward through Libra.  It is 1.3° to the upper left of the star Zubenelgenubi and 0.5° to the lower right of dim Mu Librae (μ Lib on the chart above).

According to George Davis’ 1944 short compendium of star names and meanings, Zubenelgenubi means “the southern claw.”  The nearby star, Zubeneschamali is translated as “the northern claw.”  The names hint to their ancestral association to Scorpius, being its claws.

Moon in Gemini, December 3, 2020.
2020, December 3: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon is over 30° in altitude in the west. It is near central Gemini beneath the Twins, Castor and Pollux

Farther west, the bright gibbous moon appears near the center of Gemini, beneath Castor and Pollux, the Twins.

Moon in Gemini, December 3, 2020
2020, December 3: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon (overexposed in the photo) is over 30° in altitude in the west. It is near central Gemini beneath the Twins, Castor and Pollux.

Morning detailed note: One hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus – over 12° up in the east-southeast – is 1.3° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi and 0.5° to the lower right of μ Lib. Farther west, the moon (18.3d, 91%) is 8.6° to the lower right of Pollux.

See our summary about Venus during December 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Mars in Pisces, December 3, 2020
2020, December 3: One hour after sunset, Mars is in the east-southeast. Spot the Red Planet 1.0° to the lower right of Epsilon Psc (ε Psc) and 1.6° to the upper right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc).

Mars, December 3, 2020
2020, December 3: One hour after sunset, Mars is in the east-southeast

Evening: In the evening sky after sunset, Mars Jupiter, and Saturn are moving eastward in their respective constellations.

Read about Mars during December.

Mars picks up speed moving eastward compared to the starry background among the dim stars of Pisces.  Use a binocular to spot two dim stars near the Red Planet.  Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) is to the upper left of Mars while 80 Piscium (80 Psc) is to the lower left.  Make nightly observations to view Mars move between the two stars and then farther east.

Jupiter and Saturn, December 3, 2020
2020, December 3: One hour after sunset, Saturn is 20.0° up in the south-southwest. Dimmer Saturn is 1.9° to the upper left of the Jovian Giant. In the starfield, Jupiter is 2.4° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), and Saturn is 3.9° to the upper left of the star. Additionally, Saturn is 4.3° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest.  The gap between them is 1.9°.  Dimmer Saturn is to the upper left of brighter Jupiter.  The planet pair’s movement can be observed compared to 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart) with a binocular each night.  Jupiter is to the lower left of the star, while Saturn is to its upper left.  Saturn is beginning to approach the dim star Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).  While looking at the starfield with a binocular you can see as many as 4 of Jupiter’s brightest moons.  They appear as stars on either side of the planet, typically in a line.  Sometimes all are on the same side of Jupiter, but more than likely they are in a combination on either side of the world and extend away from the planet a little.

Jupiter and Saturn, December 3, 2020. Great Conjunction December 21, 2020. Close planet alignment.
2020, December 3: In the southwest, dimmer Saturn is 1.9° to the upper left of the Jupiter.

Five hours after sunset – about 9:20 p.m. CST for those in the eastern slice of the Central Time Zone – the bright gibbous moon is 20° up in the east-northeast, 4.6° to the lower right of Pollux.  For other time zones and locations in the time zone, check your local sunset time and add five hours to make this observation.

Evening detailed note: In the evening, Mars – moving eastward in Pisces – is 1.0° to the lower right of ε Psc and 1.6° to the upper right of 80 Psc.  Use a binocular to spot the planet among the dimmer stars. Farther west, Saturn is 20.0° up in the south-southwest, 1.9° to the upper left of Jupiter. Great Conjunction Countdown: 18 days. In the starfield, the Ringed Wonder is 3.9° to the upper left of 56 Sgr and 4.3° to the lower right of σ Cap, while Jupiter is 2.4° to the lower left of 56 Sgr.  Five hours after sunset (9:20 p.m. CST), the moon (18.9d, 86%) is over 20° in altitude above the east-northeast horizon.  It is 4.6° to the lower right of Pollux.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Here is more about the planets during December 2020.

Moon in the Bull's Horns. October 8, 2020

2021, August 14: Waxing Moon, Stellar Double

August 14, 2021: This evening the waxing moon is near Zubenelgenubi, the southern claw, that is a stellar double.  Use a binocular to see both stars that are in a gravitation dance.

Moon and Venus, August 15, 2020

2021, August 13: Evening Sky, Bright Planets

August 13, 2021: This evening the crescent moon appears between Evening Star Venus and Spica as the lunar slice dances eastward.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky.

The crescent moon, November 19, 2020

2021, August 12: Evening Sky, Lunar Dance

August 12, 2021: This evening the crescent moon appears between Venus and Spica as the lunar slice dances eastward.

2021, May 13: The crescent moon is 3.2° to the upper left of Mercury.

2021, August 11: Waxing Moon, Evening Star

August 11, 2021:  The waxing crescent moon is to the upper left of Evening Star Venus this evening in the western sky.

The Crescent Moon, November 16, 2020

2021, August 10: Evening Star Venus, Crescent Moon

August 10, 2021:  The crescent moon is near Venus in the western sky after sunset.



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