December 26, 2020: The gap between Jupiter and Saturn grows after their Great Conjunction five days ago. Find them low in the southwest after sunset. Farther eastward bright Mars parades through Pisces, while the bright moon is in the east.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:26 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The gap between Jupiter and Saturn continues to open. This evening it is wider than the apparent size of the moon, 0.5°.
Begin looking for Jupiter low in the southwest after sunset. Saturn is 0.6° to the lower right of the Jovian giant.
Jupiter is setting 2 hours after local sunset. The best observing time window is shortening from Jupiter’s earlier setting. Start looking for bright Jupiter about 45 minutes after sunset for the next 30-45 minutes. As the sky darkens further, the planetary duo is lower in the sky.
Farther east, bright Mars is over halfway up in the sky in the southeast. It continues its eastward parade through Pisces. Use a binocular to find it 5.1° to the left of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc on the chart) and 2.2° to the lower right of dim Pi Piscium (π Psc). Optical aid is needed to see the background stars from the bright moonlight.
During the night Mars appears farther west. It is south 2.5 hours after sunset. It sets in the west over 5 hours before sunrise.
That bright moon, over 90% illuminated, is over one-third of the way up in the sky in the east. The star Aldebaran is 10° to the lower left of the lunar orb.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: One hour after sunset, bright Jupiter is less than 10° in altitude in the southwest. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 0.6°, as Jupiter moves father away from Saturn. Jupiter is 1.5° to the lower right of σ Cap. Farther east Mars is over 50° altitude in the southeast. It is 5.1° to the left of ζ Psc and 2.2° to the lower right of π Psc. The moon (12.3d, 91%) is over one-third of the way up in the sky in the east. It is 10.1° to the upper right of Aldebaran (α Tau, m = 0.8).
Read more about the planets during December.
April 25, 2021: Mercury passes Evening Star Venus this evening after sunset. Look low in the western sky about 20 minutes after sunset. Mars is marching eastward in Gemini, near the star cluster Messier 35. The bright moon is near Spica.
April 25, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in front of the stars of Aquarius, while Saturn’s starry background is Capricornus.
April 24, 2021: Brilliant Evening Star Venus and bright Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are low in the west-northwest during evening twilight. The bright moon is in the southeast in Virgo. Mars moves into Gemini as it approaches the star cluster Messier 35.
April 24, 2021: The bright gibbous moon is near a star in Virgo during the early morning. From parts of the Western Hemisphere, the moon covers the star. Before sunrise, bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise.
April 23, 2021: Evening Star Venus and Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are found very low in the west-northwest after sunset. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the early evening. Mars is moving toward the star cluster Messier 35.