December 28, 2020: The gap between Jupiter and Saturn widens a week after the Great Conjunction. Look for the planetary duo in the southwest after sunset. Mars is high in the southeast during the early evening. The bright moon is caught between the horns of the Bull.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:28 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Begin looking for Jupiter in the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset. Jupiter and Saturn are low in the sky, about 10° up. Jupiter is 0.7° to the upper left of Saturn.
Jupiter continues to dance away from Saturn after the Great Conjunction a week ago.
The planetary duo sets less than 2 hours after sunset. Look for them as soon as night falls. The window lasts 30-45 minutes before they are behind trees or other obstructions.
Farther east, bright Mars marches eastward in Pisces. About an hour after sunset, the Red Planet is over halfway up in the sky in the southeast. It is 1.5° to the lower right of dim Pi Piscium (π Psc on the chart) and 3.1° to the upper right of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc). Use a binocular because the stars a much dimmer than Mars and the bright moon is lower in the eastern sky.
The bright gibbous moon, that is nearly full, is seemingly caught between the horns of Taurus. Block out the moon’s glare to see Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart) 2.0° to the lower right of lunar orb and Elnath, nearly 6° to moon’s upper left.
Read about Mars during December.
Detailed note: In the evening sky, Jupiter continues to dance away from Saturn. One hour after sunset, find the bright planet about 9° up in the southwest. It is 0.7° to the upper left of Saturn and 1.3° below σ Cap. Bright Mars is over 50° in altitude in the southeast, among the dim stars of Pisces. It is 1.5° to the lower right of dim π Psc and 3.1° to the upper right of ο Psc. Use a binocular because the bright moon (14.3d, 99%) is over 20° up in the east-northeast, seemingly caught between the horns of Taurus. Block the moon’s glare to see Aldebaran nearly 16° to the upper right of the moon. The Southern Horn (ζ Tau, m = 3.0) is 2.0° to the lower right of the moon and the Northern Horn (β Tau, m = 1.6) is 5.9° to the upper left of the lunar orb.
Read more about the planets during December.
August 3, 2021: Four planets appear in the evening sky. Brilliant Evening Star Venus and dim Mars are in the west after sunset. A little later during the evening, Saturn and Jupiter are easily visible in the southeast.
August 2, 2021: Saturn is at opposition with the sun. Earth is between the sun and the planet.
August 1 – 6, 2021: The morning moon wanes toward its New moon phase in the eastern sky. It passes the bright stars that are prominent in the evening sky during the winter season in the northern hemisphere. The stars have been making their first appearances in the morning sky during summer. At this hour, Procyon and bright Sirius are the last stellar duo to appear.
August 6, 2021: In the northern hemisphere, summer’s midpoint occurs today at 6:27 p.m. CDT.
July 31, 2021: The slightly gibbous moon, nearing its Last Quarter phase, is in the southeast as morning twilight begins. It is near the planet Uranus, easily within reach of a binocular. Mira, a variable star, reaches its brightest next month.