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.
October 9, 2021: Look for brilliant Venus, crescent moon, and the head of Scorpius in the southwest after sunset. About every eight years, Venus and the moon appear near the head of the Scorpion after sunset. Look for them about 45 minutes after sunset.
October 1, 2021: Before sunrise, the lunar crescent is near the Beehive star cluster.
Newly released analysis from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that the Arabia Terra region on Mars experienced powerful volcanic eruptions.
September 30, 2021: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon is near the Gemini Twins.
September 29, 2021: The thick crescent moon is in the southeast before sunrise, approaching the middle of Gemini. The evening planet pack is visible after sunset.