December 18, 2020: As an opening act to the Great Conjunction, Venus passes the star Beta Scorpii at a distance slight larger than the closest distance of Jupiter and Saturn.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:14 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:22 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Venus moves into Scorpius, crossing it in four days. The section of the famous constellation where the planets move is very small and Venus moves quickly.
Find the planet low in the southeast about 45 minutes before sunrise. It is very close to Graffias (β Sco), the Crab, only 0.1° away from the star. The morning conjunction is an opening act for the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction in a few evenings.
The distance between Venus and the star is a little larger than the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction distance on Great Conjunction evening.
Unlike slow-moving Jupiter and Saturn, Venus moves quickly and the gap between the planet and the star is much wider tomorrow morning – 1.3°.
Can you see the star and the planet without optical help from a binocular? This is a gauge as to whether you can see Jupiter and Saturn as separate “stars” in the sky on Great Conjunction evening. Your eyes may need a little assistance from a binocular to see the planets separately.
Detailed Note: Venus moves into Scorpius. It crosses the constellation in four days. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus – over 10° up in the southeast – is 0.1° to the upper left of β Sco. Use a binocular to observe that the brilliant planet is 1.4° to the upper right of Nu Scorpii (ν Sco, m = 4.0) and 1.0° to the upper left of Omega1 Scorpii (ω1 Sco, m = 3.9).
Read more about the planets during December.
October 23, 2021: This morning the bright moon is near the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. In the evening sky, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot.
October 22. 2021: Speedy Mercury is low in the east before sunrise. It is putting on its best morning performance of the year. Arcturus, in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude as Mercury.
October 21-November 1, 2021: Brilliant Venus steps through Ophiuchus to the upper left of the star Antares in the southwest after sunset . Afterward, the planet steps farther eastward.
October 21, 2021: The bright moon is low in the west about an hour before sunrise. Mercury is in the east at about the same altitude as Arcturus. Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter shine from the evening sky.
December 18, 2021: This is the anticipated launch date of the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most sophisticated space telescope view the universe.