December 10, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 11 days. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwest as night falls. Bright Mars is in the southeast.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:08 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Bright Mars is about halfway up in the southeast as night falls. Like the other worlds, Mars moves eastward compared to the starry background as it revolves around the sun.
It is in front of the dim stars of Pisces as it marches eastward. It is now east of a dim, tiny triangle formed by Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart), Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc), and 80 Piscium (80 Psc).
The planet is heading toward a region below Pi Piscium (π Psc). Mars passes about 1.0° below the star on December 31. In the new year, the Red Planet moves into Aries and moves far below Hamal later in January.
The Great Conjunction of 2020 is 11 days away! As night falls, Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southwest. Jupiter is over 81° to the west of Mars.
Jupiter is the bright star low in the sky, brighter than Mars in the southeast. Saturn is nearby, to Jupiter’s upper left. It is dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than the other stars in the region.
Do not confuse Jupiter with the star Fomalhaut that is almost directly south and nearly the same altitude above the horizon.
Jupiter continues to inch closer to Saturn in the sky. This evening the Jovian Giant is 1.0° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: In the evening, one hour after sunset, Mars (m = −0.8) is nearly halfway up in the southeastern sky. The Red Planet is now east of the small triangle formed by ε Psc, ζ Psc, and 80 Psc. It is 1.9° to the lower left of ε Psc, 0.8° to the upper right of ζ Psc, and 2.2° to the upper left of 80 Psc. Jupiter is over 16° up in the southwest, 81.4° of ecliptic longitude west of Mars. In the southwest, Saturn is 1.0° to the upper left of the brighter planet. Great Conjunction Countdown: 11 days.
Read more about the planets during December.
February 19-21: The bright moon moves through the constellation Taurus. Use a binocular to see the starry background with the moon.
February 18, 2021: The moon, waxing toward its First Quarter moon phase, is high in the southwest after sunset. Planet Mars is 3.8° to the upper right of the moon. Mars is parading eastward compared to the starry background in eastern Aries as it heads toward the Taurus border.
February 6, 2021: Before sunrise, look east-southeast for the waning crescent moon. It is 4.5° to the upper left of Antares – the rival of Mars.