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.
January 20, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The bright moon is to the lower right of Mars, while the Red Planet passes planet Uranus.
January 19, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The moon is approaching Mars before their grouping tomorrow evening. Mars nears the planet Uranus before tomorrow’s conjunction.
January 18, 2021: Without a bright morning planet, bright Arcturus and the constellation Bootes the Herdsman is high in the south. The crescent moon is in the early evening sky. Mars is near the planet Uranus. They are high in the south-southeast as night falls.