December 27, 2020: Jupiter and Saturn appear lower in the southwest, less than a week after the Great Conjunction. Jupiter is 0.7° to the upper left of Saturn. Mars is farther east. The bright moon is in Taurus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:27 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
As night falls the bright moon, that is over 96% illuminated, is in the east. It certainly attracts your eye on your first step outside. Block its glare to see Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, 4.8° to the lower right of the lunar orb.
Immediately turn your attention to the southwest, where Jupiter and Saturn are around 10° up in the sky. Jupiter continues to open the gap on Saturn as the Jovian Giant moves faster toward the east in front of the starry background compared to Saturn.
Less than a week after the Great Conjunction, Jupiter is 0.7° to the upper left of dimmer Saturn.
Be sure to look early because the pair is setting about 2 hours after sunset. The best observing window begins about 45 minutes after sunset and continues for about 30-40 minutes as the planets appear lower in the sky as our planet rotates.
Bright Mars is about 50° up in the southeast. It continues its eastward March among the stars of Pisces. Because of the bright moon, use a binocular to see the dimmer starfield around Mars. The Red planet is 1.9° to the lower right of Pi Piscium (π Psc on the chart) and 3.4° to the upper right of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).
As Earth rotates, Mars appears in the south about 2.5 hours after sunset. It sets in the west over 5.5 hours before sunrise.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: In the evening, the bright gibbous moon (13.3d, 96%) is in the east – 4.8° to the upper left of Aldebaran. Block the moon’s brightness to see the Pleiades and Hyades. During the summer I used tree leaves to block the moon to photograph Aldebaran and the Hyades. Farther west, Mars (m = −0.7) is over 50° up in the southeast. It is marching eastward in Pisces. This evening it is 1.9° to the lower right of π Psc and 3.4° to the upper right of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc, m =4.2). Jupiter and Saturn are farther west, less than 10° up in the southwest. Jupiter continues to dance away from Saturn. This evening’s gap is 0.7°. Jupiter is to the upper left of Saturn. This evening Jupiter sets a few minutes before 6:30 p.m. CST, about 2 hours after sunset.
Read more about the planets during December.
November 3, 2021: Before sunrise speedy planet Mercury, the crescent moon, and the star Spica are grouped together. The trio does not appear this close together again until 2033.
October 31, 2021: There is no Halloween Full moon this year, and the phase is not close. The crescent moon is in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east-southeast before sunrise. The planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – gleam in the evening sky.
October 29, 2021: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun. It is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon and Mercury are in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 29 – November 1, 2021: The crescent moon moves in front of the stars of Leo in the eastern sky before sunrise. Watch the moon appear lower and the phase shrink (wane) each morning. Also note that there is no Full moon on Halloween this year!
October 26, 27, and 28, 2021: During the early morning hours, the bright gibbous moon appears in front of Gemini’s stars.