December 13, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 8 days! Jupiter’s gap to Saturn is 0.8° as the planets appear in the southwest after sunset. Farther east, Mars continues its eastward march in Pisces.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:10 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter continues to close in on Saturn eight evenings before the Great Conjunction of 2020. This evening bright Jupiter is 0.8° to the lower right of Saturn.
Great Conjunction Countdown: 8 days.
Begin looking for them as night falls in the southwestern sky. Jupiter is the brightest star in the region. Saturn is dimmer and to Jupiter’s upper left. Find them before they get too low in the sky. From about 45 minutes after sunset to 90 minutes after sunset, they are in their best location to see. Jupiter sets about 2.5 hours after sunset. Saturn follows a few minutes later.
Mars is farther east. It is over halfway up in the sky in the southeast. It is the brightest star in the region as it marches eastward in front of the starry background of Pisces.
Use a binocular to spot it near Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc on the chart) and Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc). Notice Hamal on the chart and find it in the sky. Mars is heading generally in that direction and passes below the star later next month.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset Saturn is over 16° in altitude in the southwest, 0.8° to the upper left of Jupiter. Great Conjunction Countdown: 8 days. Farther east Mars is over 45° up in the southeast, 0.7° to the upper left of ζ Psc and 2.7° to the lower left of ε Psc.
Read more about the planets during December.
November 3, 2021: Before sunrise speedy planet Mercury, the crescent moon, and the star Spica are grouped together. The trio does not appear this close together again until 2033.
October 31, 2021: There is no Halloween Full moon this year, and the phase is not close. The crescent moon is in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east-southeast before sunrise. The planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – gleam in the evening sky.
October 29, 2021: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun. It is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon and Mercury are in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 29 – November 1, 2021: The crescent moon moves in front of the stars of Leo in the eastern sky before sunrise. Watch the moon appear lower and the phase shrink (wane) each morning. Also note that there is no Full moon on Halloween this year!
October 26, 27, and 28, 2021: During the early morning hours, the bright gibbous moon appears in front of Gemini’s stars.