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.
- 2023, December 26: Cold Moon, Venus, Jupiter, SaturnDecember 26, 2023: The Cold Moon is visible during the nighttime hours. Venus shines before sunrise while Jupiter and Saturn are visible after sundown.
- 2023, December 25: Telescope First Light, Bright PlanetsDecember 25, 2023: For sky watchers with new telescopes, here’s what to look at before dawn or after sunset.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Heliacal RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.