December 14, 2020: The Great Conjunction countdown: 7 days! The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 0.7°. Find them in the southwest, one hour after sunset. Farther east, Mars is the bright star in the southeast after sunset. It is moving eastward among the stars of Pisces.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:11 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Great Conjunction Countdown: 7 days. One hour after sunset, find the giant planets in the southwest. They are about 15° up in the sky. The gap between them is 0.7°. Jupiter is slowly overtaking the more distant and slower moving planet.
Mars is marching eastward in Pisces. It is now moving away from a dim, miniature triangle, composed of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc on the chart), Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and 80 Piscium (80 Psc). A binocular is helpful to find the planet with the starry background.
The Red Planet is heading in a direction between Pi Piscium (π Psc) and Omicron Piscium (ο Psc). Mars passes π Psc on January 1 and between the two stars several days later.
On the chart above, also note Hamal, the brightest star in Aries. Mars moves into Aries and passes far from that star later in January 2021.
Note the planet’s changing place in front of the stars during the next six weeks.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset, the Jupiter – Saturn gap is 0.7°. Great Conjunction Countdown: 7 days. Find the giant planets about 15° in altitude in the southwest. Farther east Mars (m = −0.7) is over halfway up in the southeast. In the starfield, the Red Planet is 0.9° to the upper left of ζ Psc and 3.0° to the lower left of ε Psc.
Read more about the planets during December.
Look for the bright rosy star Betelgeuse during February evenings. It makes up the shoulder of Orion the Hunter.
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.