December 19, 2020: Bright Jupiter is 0.2° to the lower right of Saturn this evening. Check them out dancing in the southwest as night falls. Great Conjunction Countdown: 2 days! The moon is far to the upper left of the planet duo. Mars is marching eastward in Pisces. Find it high in the southeast after sunset.
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 moon, that is 30% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the south-southwest. Bright Jupiter is much lower in the southwest, it is very close to Saturn, 0.2° to its upper left.
Find the converging, dancing planets before they are too low in the west. They set less than 2.5 hours after sunset. The good observing window occurs between 45 minutes after sunset for about an hour.
Great Conjunction Countdown: 2 days!
The moon is 4.5° to the right of Delta Aquarii.
Us a binocular to observe the star near the moon and to clearly distinguish Saturn from Jupiter.
Farther eastward, Mars is over halfway up in the southeast. It continues to march eastward compared to the starry background of Pisces. It is travelling away from Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc on the chart) and toward the general region of dim Pi Piscium (π Psc). Use a binocular to spot the dim stars with the planets. Next month, Mars passes between π Psc and Omicron Piscium (ο Psc) early next year.
As the night continues, Mars is in the south about 3 hours after sunset. It sets in the west about 4 hours before sunrise.
Mercury is at its superior conjunction at 9:26 p.m. CST. It appears in the evening sky later in January.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: As the sky darkens after sunset this evening, the Jupiter – Saturn pair is about 15° up in the southwest. The gap between the planets is 0.2° with Jupiter to the lower right of Saturn. Great Conjunction Countdown: 2 days. The moon (5.3d, 30%), over one-third of the way up in the south-southwest, is 4.5° to the right of Delta Aquarii (δ Aqr, m = 3.2). Look for Fomalhaut (α PsA, m = 1.2) about 15° to the lower left of the moon. Mars is nearly 49° in altitude in the southeast. In the starfield, the planet is 2.5° to the upper left of ζ Psc and 4.8° to the right of Pi Piscium (π Psc, m = 5.5). Find π Psc nearly midway from Eta Piscium (η Psc, m = 3.6) to Omicron Piscium (ο Psc, m = 4.2), although it is to the right of a line that connects the two stars. Mercury is at its superior conjunction at 9:26 p.m. CST.
Read more about the planets during December.
During the early evening hours of winter, the stars that shine from the southern sky are a sampler of the sky’s brightest stars.
January 21, 2021: Several bright stars are in the morning sky. This morning look for Antares in the east-southeast. Mercury – near its greatest elongation – is in the west-southwest after sunset. Mars and the moon are near each other. Planet Uranus is near Mars.
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.