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.
April 25, 2021: Mercury passes Evening Star Venus this evening after sunset. Look low in the western sky about 20 minutes after sunset. Mars is marching eastward in Gemini, near the star cluster Messier 35. The bright moon is near Spica.
April 25, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in front of the stars of Aquarius, while Saturn’s starry background is Capricornus.
April 24, 2021: Brilliant Evening Star Venus and bright Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are low in the west-northwest during evening twilight. The bright moon is in the southeast in Virgo. Mars moves into Gemini as it approaches the star cluster Messier 35.
April 24, 2021: The bright gibbous moon is near a star in Virgo during the early morning. From parts of the Western Hemisphere, the moon covers the star. Before sunrise, bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise.
April 23, 2021: Evening Star Venus and Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are found very low in the west-northwest after sunset. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the early evening. Mars is moving toward the star cluster Messier 35.