December 15, 2020: Near the Libra – Scorpius border, Venus is heading for Graffias, in Scorpius, in three mornings. See the planet low in the southeast before sunrise.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:12 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:21 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Venus is slowly slipping back into morning twilight. It loses about 2-3 minutes of rising time each morning, so that it appears lower in the sky. This morning it rises 2 hours before sunrise. An hour later it is low in the southeast.
With a binocular spot the planet to the lower right of the dim star Theta Librae (θ Lib on the chart).
Venus is approaching Graffias (β Sco), the Crab, for a close conjunction on the morning of December 18. The separation is about the same as the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn three evenings later.
Venus moves quicker than Jupiter so this approach to the star occurs during the next few mornings. The prelude to the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction seems painfully slow in comparison to Venus rapid eastward movement through the stars.
Detailed Note: Venus rises two hours before sunrise. One hour later, it is nearly 9° up in the southeast. With a binocular observe that it is 2.2° to the lower right of Theta Librae (θ Lib, m = 4.1). At this time the brilliant planet is 3.7° to the upper right of Beta Scorpii. (β Sco, m = 2.6). Watch Venus close the gap during the next two mornings: Dec 16, 2.4°; Dec 17, 1.2°. In a telescope, Venus is 91% illuminated – a morning gibbous – and 11.1” across.
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.