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.
December 28, 2021: The Great Andromeda Galaxy is nearly overhead at the end of the evening twilight.
December 29, 2021: The morning crescent moon approaches Scorpius and Mars. In the evening sky, four evening planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are lined up in the southwest. Venus is rapidly leaving the evening sky.
November 28, 2021: During twilight this evening, the three bright evening planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are on parade in the southwestern sky.
December 28, 2021: Brilliant Venus is quickly slipping from the evening sky. Mercury appears beneath Venus after sunset. This duo is joined by Jupiter and Saturn. In the morning, Mars is near Antares and the moon near Spica.
December 27, 2021: The Red Planet Mars passes Antares this morning before sunrise. At the same hour, the moon is near Spica. The three bright planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the evening sky.