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.
August 14, 2021: This evening the waxing moon is near Zubenelgenubi, the southern claw, that is a stellar double. Use a binocular to see both stars that are in a gravitation dance.
August 13, 2021: This evening the crescent moon appears between Evening Star Venus and Spica as the lunar slice dances eastward. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky.
August 12, 2021: This evening the crescent moon appears between Venus and Spica as the lunar slice dances eastward.
August 11, 2021: The waxing crescent moon is to the upper left of Evening Star Venus this evening in the western sky.
August 10, 2021: The crescent moon is near Venus in the western sky after sunset.