2020, December 18: Jupiter, Saturn Conjunction Looms

Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, December 18, 2020. Great Conjunction in 3 evenings. Planets align.
2020, December 18: The crescent moon is over 20° to the upper left of Jupiter. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 0.3°.

December 18, 2020:  The crescent moon overlooks the impending Jupiter – Saturn Great Conjunction during the early evening hours.  Mars is in the southeast after sunset. Great Conjunction Countdown: 3 days!

Jupiter and Saturn, December 18, 2020. The Great Conjunction. Planets align
2020, December 18: 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.

As night falls, the crescent moon, that is 21% illuminated, is to the upper left of the impending Jupiter – Saturn Great Conjunction in 3 evenings.

About 45 minutes after sunset, Jupiter is the bright star in the southwest.  Saturn is immediately to the upper left of its brighter companion planet.  The planets are 0.3° apart, that’s less than the moon’s size in the sky.  The tip of your pinky finger held at arm’s length covers the two planets.

Note the early sunset time and locate the planets before they appear too low in the sky and eventually set.  The best time window to see them is 45 minutes after sunset for the next 60 minutes. Jupiter sets 2 hours, 30 minutes after sunset this evening.

Great Conjunction Countdown: 3 days!

Mars, December 18, 2020
2020, December 18: Mars is in the southeast after sunset. It is 2.1° to the upper left of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) and 4.6° to the lower left of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc).

Farther eastward, Mars continues its eastward march in Pisces.  Find the planet about halfway up in the sky about one hour after sunset. With a binocular note that it is to the upper left of dim Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc on the chart) and Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc).  It continues to move away from those stars and toward Aries that is marked by Hamal, its brightest star.

Read about Mars during December.

Detailed note: In the evening, look for Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest as the sky darkens after sunset.  Jupiter moved into Capricornus from Sagittarius today. The planet pair is about 15° up in the southwest. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 0.3°, with Jupiter to Saturn’s lower right. Great Conjunction Countdown: 3 days. The moon (4.3d, 21%) is over 20° to the upper left of Jupiter. Farther east, Mars is over 48° up in the southeast.  It is moving eastward among the stars of Pisces.  The Red Planet is 2.1° to the upper left of ζ Psc and 4.6° to the lower left of ε Psc.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during December.

2021, May 13: Brilliant Venus, Mercury, and the crescent moon in the evening sky.

2021, August 3: Four Evening Planets: Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter

August 3, 2021:  Four planets appear in the evening sky.  Brilliant Evening Star Venus and dim Mars are in the west after sunset.  A little later during the evening, Saturn and Jupiter are easily visible in the southeast.

Saturn (NASA)

2021, August 2: Saturn at Opposition

August 2, 2021: Saturn is at opposition with the sun.  Earth is between the sun and the planet.

2020, July 17: The crescent moon appears near Venus before sunrise. The night portion of the moon is gently illuminated by earthshine.

2021: August 1 – 6: Morning Moon, Bright Stars

August 1 – 6, 2021:  The morning moon wanes toward its New moon phase in the eastern sky.  It passes the bright stars that are prominent in the evening sky during the winter season in the northern hemisphere.  The stars have been making their first appearances in the morning sky during summer.  At this hour, Procyon and bright Sirius are the last stellar duo to appear.

2021, July 8: The flowers celebrate summer.

2021, August 6: Summer’s Midpoint

August 6, 2021:  In the northern hemisphere, summer’s midpoint occurs today at 6:27 p.m. CDT.

The moon and Spica, December 10, 2020

2021, July 31: Morning Sky, Moon, Mira, Uranus

July 31, 2021:  The slightly gibbous moon, nearing its Last Quarter phase, is in the southeast as morning twilight begins.  It is near the planet Uranus, easily within reach of a binocular.  Mira, a variable star, reaches its brightest next month.

Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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