2020, December 8: Jupiter Moves Toward Saturn, Mars Marches Eastward

Jupiter and Saturn, December 8. Great Conjunction is December 21, 2020 when the two planets align.
2020, December 8: One hour after sunset, Jupiter is 1.1° to the lower right of Saturn. The planets are in the southwest.

December 8, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 13 days.  Jupiter continues to close in on Saturn.  Rusty Mars is in the eastern sky.  The bright moon is in the sky nearly all night.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:06 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

The Great Conjunction of 2020 is 13 days away! Bright Jupiter is low in the southwest after sunset.  Jupiter is 1.1° to the lower right of Saturn.  In the eastern sky, Mars Marches eastward in Pisces.

Bright Jupiter is in the southwest after sunset.  Saturn is 1.1° to the upper left of Jupiter.

To find the planet pair, start looking in the southern sky as night falls after sunset.  Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the area, about one-fourth of the way up in the sky.  Saturn is dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than most of the other stars nearby.

Hold up your index finger.  At arm’s length, your finger fills the space between the two planets.

Look after sunset, during this season of early sunsets.  Jupiter sets nearly three hours after sunset.  An hour before sunset, it is already low in the southwest.

Farther eastward, Mars is the bright rusty star, over halfway up in the sky in the southeast.  It marches eastward among the stars of Pisces.

Mars in Pisces, December 8, 2020
2020, December 8: One hour after sunset, Mars – in the southeast sky – is 1.4° to the lower left of (Epsilon Piscium) ε Psc, 1.2° to the upper right of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc), and 1.9° to the upper left of 80 Piscium (80 Psc).

Read about Mars during December.

The planet is nicely placed with a triangle of stars – Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart), Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) and 80 Piscium (80 Psc).  Use a binocular to spot the planet against the starry backdrop.

Use the binocular to watch Mars quickly move away from the small triangle during the next several evenings.  The planet is heading toward the region of dim Pi Piscium (π Psc). 

During early January 2021, Mars moves into Aries.  The star Hamal is the brightest star in the constellation.  The planets’ paths do not approach the star.  Mars passes nearly 9° to the lower left of the star on January 23.

For more about Mars during December, see this article.

Detailed note: One hour after sunset, bright Jupiter is 17° up in the southwest, 1.1° to the lower right of Saturn. Great Conjunction Countdown: 13 days.  Farther east, Mars is nearly halfway up in the sky in the southeast.  Mars is 1.4° to the lower left of ε Psc, 1.2° to the upper right of ζ Psc, and 1.9° to the upper left of 80 Psc. Use a binocular to spot the planet with the stars that make a small triangle.

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.



Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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