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.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.
- 2023, October 16-22: Celestial Events for the WeekOctober 16-22, 2023: The moon returns to the evening sky. Venus steps eastward in front of Leo, and a meteor shower is visible.
- 2023, October 15: Three Bright PlanetsOctober 15, 2023: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise. Saturn is above the southeast horizon after sundown.
- 2023, October 14: Solar Eclipse, Morning PlanetsOctober 14, 2023: A solar eclipse is visible across the western hemisphere. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise.
- 2023, October 13: Moon’s Last Glimpse, Bright Morning PlanetsOctober 13, 2023: Before tomorrow’s eclipse, see a razor-thin moon before sunrise. Venus and Jupiter shine brightly during morning twilight.