Category: Astronomy

2020, March 30: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in a Group

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, March 30, 2020
2020, March 30: Mars is 1.2° to the lower right of Saturn.

 

This morning bright Jupiter is to the upper right of Saturn and Mars. The Red Planet 1.2° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder. Jupiter is 6.4° to the upper right of Saturn. In the starfield, Jupiter is 1.7° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii.

For more about tomorrow’s conjunction, click here.

2020, March 23: Venus and Pleiades

Venus and Pleiades, March 23, 2020
2020, March 23: Venus is 10.4° to the lower right of Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades.

Brilliant Venus shines brightly in the west this evening.  It is 10.4° to the lower right of Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades.  Each evening Venus moves closer to the cluster.  Venus passes the Pleiades on April 3.  On March 28, the moon joins the scene.

For more about Venus as an Evening Star, visit this page.

 

2020, July 19: See Moon and 5 Planets

See the moon and 5 planets, July 19, 2020
2020, July 19: The moon and five planets stretch across the sky before sunrise.

See the moon and 5 planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn before sunrise on July 19, 2020.

Forty-five minutes before sunrise, the crescent moon and five planets are visible curved across the morning sky on July 19, 2020.  Find a spot with clear horizons in the east-northeast and the southwest.  A binocular may help finding the moon, Mercury, and Jupiter.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Brilliant Venus blazes in the eastern sky.  The star Aldebaran is nearby.
  • The crescent moon, 28.2 days past the New Moon phase and only 1% illuminated, is very low in the east-northeast.  This is where the binocular might help.
  • Mercury is to the right of the moon, about 5°. Make a fist and stretch your arm. Five degrees is about the distance from your thumb knuckle to your pointer finger knuckle. A binocular will help here as well. Can you see Mercury without the binocular once you find it?
  • Bright Mars, not as brilliant as Venus is the “star” that’s about halfway up in the sky in the south-southeast.
  • Jupiter – brighter than Mars, but low in the sky – is just above the horizon in the southwest.
  • Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is about 7° to the upper left of the Giant Planet. Both appear to our eyes as “stars.” Their separation is a little more than the knuckle to pointer distance described above. Don’t confuse Saturn with the star Fomalhaut, farther south, but at about the same altitude as Saturn.

Five planets and the crescent moon are in the sky at one time! During the next few mornings five planets are visible, but without the moon. Additionally, Jupiter is quickly leaving the sky. So on successive mornings, look 3-4 minutes earlier each day. You may catch them in the sky until about July 25.

Jupiter and Saturn are headed toward their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. Look for them low in the southeast during the early evening hours of July and August 2020.

 

2020, April: Morning Planet Parade Marches On

The Bright Outer Planets, April 1, 2020
April 1, 2020: Mars and Saturn are close together, one day after their conjunction. Jupiter is to their upper right.

The three Bright Outer Planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – are found in the southeastern pre-sunrise sky throughout April 2020.  Jupiter continues its approach to Saturn for the Great Conjunction of December 21, 2020.

For more about the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, click here.

Click here for our detailed notes for the planets during April 2020.

The three worlds look like bright stars to our eyes.  Jupiter is the brightest of the planetary trio.  Saturn and Mars are nearby, to Jupiter’s lower left.

One hour before sunrise, bright Jupiter is nearly 19° up in the southeast. Saturn and Mars are one day past their conjunction. Mars is 1.0° to the lower left of Saturn and the Ringed Wonder is 6.2° to the lower left of Jupiter. The planetary trio spans 6.7°. Watch the span grow about 0.6° each day. To view the trio this close, you’ll have to wait 20 years. By month’s end the BOPs span over 24° as Mars marches eastward.

As Mars moves away from Saturn, Jupiter slowly closes the gap to Saturn for the once-in-a-generation Great Conjunction later this year.  Watch carefully, as Jupiter inches eastward in its orbit faster than Saturn.

If you have a binocular an a star chart, watch Jupiter slowly move past a dimmer star. Jupiter 1.6° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr, m = 4.8). Watch Jupiter sneak past the star during the next several days. Use a binocular to see Jupiter in the starfield. 

Bright Outer Planets, April 9, 2020
April 9, 2020: The planets are equally spaced this morning. Saturn is 5.7° from Jupiter and Mars.

Each morning, Mars appears farther east than the previous day, by an amount equal to the apparent size of the moon. By April 9, the Bright Outer Planets appear equally spaced in the southeastern pre-dawn sky. One hour before sunrise, Jupiter is over 20° up in the south-southeast. Jupiter is the brightest.  The other two planets are diagonally to Jupiter’s lower left. Saturn is 5.7° from Jupiter and Mars.

With a binocular and a star chart, find the background stars near Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter is 1.5° below 56 Sagittarii. Mars is 1.9° to the lower left of Omicron Sagittarii and 1.8° to the lower right of Upsilon Capricorni.

Bright Outer Planets and the moon, April 15, 2020
April 15, 2020: The moon joins the bright morning planets. The moon is below Saturn this morning.

 

On April 15, the moon joins Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. The thick crescent moon (22.0 days past its New Moon phase, 45% illuminated) is 3.3° below Saturn, 20° up in the southeast. This morning bright Jupiter is 5.5° to the upper right of Saturn and 14.9° to the upper right of Mars.

With your binocular and star chart find Jupiter and Mars in the starfield. Jupiter is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii, while Mars is 3.3° to the right of Theta Capricorni.

The Bright Outer Planets, April 30, 2020
April 30, 2020: Mars is moving away from Jupiter and Saturn, while Jupiter inches closer to Saturn. The Bright Outer Planets span 24.3° this morning.

By month’s end, Mars leaves the two giant planets. One hour before sunrise, Jupiter – over 24° up in the south-southeast – is 4.9° to the upper right of Saturn. The Ringed Wonder is 19.4° to the upper right of Mars. The Bright Outer Planets span 24.3° along the ecliptic.

In the starfield, Jupiter is 2.3° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii. Mars is 1.2° to the upper right of Gamma Capricorni.

2020, March 17: Brilliant Venus Begins Approach to Pleiades

Venus and Pleiades, March 17, 2020
2020, March 17: Venus is over 16° to the lower right of the Pleiades star cluster.

Venus begins its approach to the Pleiades and their April 3, conjunction. This evening, Venus is over 16° to the lower right of the star cluster. The Pleiades are in the constellation Taurus.  The pattern’s brightest star is Aldebaran, to the upper left of the star cluster.

Venus and the stars shine through a thin veil of clouds this evening.

For more about the Venus-Pleiades conjunction, click here.

For more about Venus during March, click here.

2020, March 17: Moon Joins Morning Planet Parade

Moon joins Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, March 17, 2020
2020, March 17: The moon approaches Jupiter and Mars as Mars closes in for its March 20 conjunction with Jupiter.

 

This morning, the moon approaches Jupiter and Mars as Mars closes in for its March 20 conjunction with Jupiter.  Jupiter is over 12° to the lower left of the moon (22.8 days past the New Moon phase, 39% illuminated). Fast moving Mars is 1.7° to the right of Jupiter. The other planet gaps: Saturn – Mars, 8.9°; Jupiter – Saturn, 7.2°. 

Once every generation, these three planets appear close together in the sky.  Jupiter and Saturn are headed for their every 20-year reunion in December, in what is known as a great conjunction.

Read more about the morning planets here.

2020, March 15: Venus Sparkles in West

Venus in west after sunset, March 15, 2020
2020, March 15: Venus appears 8.5° to the upper left of Hamal.

Venus shines brightly in the western sky this evening after sunset.  It appears 8.5° to the upper left of Hamal.  Watch it continue to move past the stars of Aries and into Taurus.  The Pleiades are far above the planet.  Venus passes the star cluster next month.

For more about Venus during March, click here.