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.
October 9, 2021: Look for brilliant Venus, crescent moon, and the head of Scorpius in the southwest after sunset. About every eight years, Venus and the moon appear near the head of the Scorpion after sunset. Look for them about 45 minutes after sunset.
October 1, 2021: Before sunrise, the lunar crescent is near the Beehive star cluster.
Newly released analysis from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that the Arabia Terra region on Mars experienced powerful volcanic eruptions.
September 30, 2021: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon is near the Gemini Twins.
September 29, 2021: The thick crescent moon is in the southeast before sunrise, approaching the middle of Gemini. The evening planet pack is visible after sunset.