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2020, December 28: Jupiter Dances Away From Saturn

Moon in the Bull's Horns. October 8, 2020

2020, October 8: Among the stars along the ecliptic, the gibbous moon, overexposed and behind the tree leaves, is 3.3° to the upper left of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of Taurus, and nearly 7° to the lower left of Elnath, the Northern Horn.

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2020, December 28: Look in the southwest for Jupiter 0.7° to the upper left of Saturn.

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.

2020, December 28: During the early evening, Mars is in the southeast, 1.5° to the lower right of dim Pi Piscium (π Psc) and 3.1° to the upper right of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

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.

2020, December 28: The bright moon appears to be caught between the horns of Taurus, Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau) and Elnath (β Tau).

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.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during December.

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