Category: Feature

2019-2020: Venus as an Evening Star

August 4, 2018: Venus from the Arizona desert.

Link to our semi-technical analysis of this apparition.

Venus shines as a brilliant evening star during late 2019 and early 2020.  The apparition (appearance) includes conjunctions with Jupiter and Saturn that occur within a month.  Then Venus moves past Neptune and Uranus.  The appearance includes a close conjunction with the Pleiades and a quasi-conjunction (near conjunction) with Beta Tauri.  The apparition ends as Venus dives toward inferior conjunction and has a conjunction with Mercury, followed by a pretty grouping of the two planets, Beta Tauri, and the moon.

The young lunar crescent’s appearance with Venus is always an exciting time to view and photograph the brilliant planet and the moon displaying Earthshine.  The best view occurs on November 28, when the pair is 1.9° apart.

Venus as an Evening Star. The chart shows the setting time of Venus and other celestial objects in the west compared to sunset.  Data from the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

The chart above shows the setting time of Venus compared to sunset along with other bright stars near the ecliptic and the moon.  The chart is constructed from data from the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.   When the Venus line crosses the lines of other objects, they set at the same time.  A conjunction occurs near the intersection.  If a moon circle is near one of the setting lines, a conjunction may occur on that date, or on the day before or day after the date the moon and that object are plotted together.

It is important to note that because two objects set at the same time, they may not appear close together in the sky.  Two objects that are far apart in the sky can set at the same time.  Because objects have been selected for the chart that are near the ecliptic, close conjunctions might occur.  While Antares, Aldebaran, and Pollux generally lie near the ecliptic, the conjunctions with planets usually have gaps of several degrees.

Venus is at superior conjunction on August 14. 2019 when it is on the far side of the sun.

Venus passes superior conjunction at 1:07 a.m. CDT on August 14, 2019, nearly 1.3° north of the sun.  Because of the time, the conjunction is invisible in the Central U.S., but Venus can be found with optical assistance in a clear sky northeast of the sun after it rises that morning. Great care must be taken for visual observations of the planet in close proximity to the sun

Venus Emerges Into Bright Evening Twilight

Venus climbs into bright evening twilight in the southwestern sky and is soon visible in darker skies.  It is headed toward a conjunction with Jupiter in about a month.  On October 27, Venus is 20° from the sun and sets in the southwest and about an hour after sunset.

In the charts that follow, several of them are displayed for a time interval after sunset.  Use local sources for the time of your sunset.  The U.S. Naval Observatory has an online calculator that displays a year of sunrises and sunsets.  Enter your state and city into Form A on the website. Make appropriate changes for Daylight Saving Time.  For readers outside the U.S., enter your longitude and latitude in Form B for your yearly table.  Click here.

2019, October 29: Venus appears 4.7° to the lower right of the crescent moon. Jupiter is to the pair’s upper left. Find a clear horizon to locate Venus and the moon.

The moon makes its first appearance with Venus on October 29, as illustrated above.   Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon appears to the upper left of Venus, only 4° up in the southwest with bright Jupiter to the upper left of the pair. The moon is 1.8 days old, past its New phase, and 4.4% illuminated.  The moon appears with Jupiter two evenings later (October 31).  By early November, Venus continues to set later.  By November 4, it sets about an hour after sunset.

Venus – Jupiter Conjunction

For the second time during this apparition of Jupiter, Venus passes the Giant Planet.  Watch Venus move into Ophiuchus and then it passes Jupiter on the edge of Sagittarius. The next conjunction is February 11, 2021, but the planets rise during bright morning twilight.  On April 30, 2022, the planets rise into the eastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise 29’ apart, an Epoch Conjunction.  During the current apparition, Venus and the moon have a very nice pairing (1.9°) near the end of November.  Follow the progress of the 2019 Venus – Jupiter conjunction during November:

On November 9, thirty minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 6° up in the southwest, is 3.9° to the upper right of  the star Antares. The Venus – Jupiter gap is 15°. Venus continues to set later, appearing higher at the same time each evening.

2019, November 13: Venus is about 10° from Jupiter, 30 minutes after sunset.

By November 13, thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is over 10°. Venus is 6° up in the southwest.  A few evenings later, November 16, Venus is 25° east of the sun. Thirty minutes after sunset, it is 7° in altitude in the southwest.

2019, November 19: Forty-five minutes after sunset. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are 5° apart in the southwest.

Venus continues to close in on Jupiter.  By November 19, forty-five minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is about 5°. Venus is 4° up in the southwest. The separations until the conjunction: Nov 20, 3.9°; Nov 21, 2.8°; Nov 22, 2.1°; Nov 23, 1.5°, Venus is to the lower left of Jupiter.

2019, November 24: Venus-Jupiter conjunction. Look in the southwest about 30 minutes after sunset.

On November 24, Venus is closest to Jupiter! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of bright Jupiter. This evening, Venus sets at its southern-most azimuth, 236°. It sets here until December 1.  The Venus – Jupiter separations after conjunction: Nov 25, 2°, Venus is to the left of Jupiter; Nov 26, 2.8°; Nov 27, 3.7°, Venus is to the upper left of Jupiter; Nov 28, 4.7°.

On November 26, Venus sets at the end of twilight, over 90 minutes after sunset, when the sun is 18° below the horizon.  Venus sets after the end of evening twilight until May 19, 2020.

The next evening, November 27, thirty minutes after sunset look for the crescent moon (1.3d, 2%), about 5° up in the southwest. It is nearly 11° to the lower right of Venus, with Jupiter between them, but Jupiter is closer to Venus.

2019, November 28: Venus and the moon are very close, only 1.9° apart!. Jupiter is to the lower right of the Venus and Saturn is to the upper left.

On November 28, at mid-twilight (about 45 minutes after sunset) Venus and the moon (2.3d, 6.3%) have a classic appearance, with Venus 1.9° to the lower right of the moon. At this time, Venus is about 7° up in the southwest.  Both appear in the viewfinder of a camera with a 300 mm focal length lens.  A longer exposure reveals Earthshine on the moon.

2019, November 30: Venus passes Kaus Borealis, the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius.

Venus continues to move away from Jupiter.  On November 30, Venus passes 0.8° to the upper right of Kaus Borealis, the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius.

Venus – Saturn Conjunction

As Venus moves away from Jupiter, it approaches and passes Saturn. Watch Venus close the gap on Saturn and pass it on December 10. Venus passes Saturn again on February 6, 2021 in a difficult-to-see conjunction, just 5 days before the Venus-Jupiter conjunction of 2021.  On the morning of March 29, 2022, Venus is 2.1° from Saturn. Mars is nearby, 4.4° to the upper right of Saturn.

2019, December 2: Venus is about 10° to the lower right of Saturn.
  • The diagram above on December 2, 45 minutes after sunset, shows Venus about 9° up in the southwest. It is about 10° to the lower right of Saturn.  On the next evening, December 3, the three evening planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are nearly equidistant tonight, but they are not along the same arc in the sky: Venus – Saturn, 8.6°; Venus – Jupiter, 9.7°.
2019, December 5, Venus passes the star Sigma Sagittarii. Venus is about midway between Jupiter and Saturn.

Venus continues to move eastward compared to the starry background toward Saturn.  On December 5,  Venus passes 1.9° to the upper right of Sigma Sagittarii.  Venus continues to close the gap on Saturn. Venus – Saturn separations until the conjunction: Dec 7, 4.3°, Dec 8, 3.3°; Dec 9, 2.4°.

2019: December 10: Venus passes Saturn.

Venus passes Saturn on December 10. At mid-twilight, Venus, over 11° up in the southwest, is 1.8° to the lower left of Saturn. Venus – Saturn gaps after the conjunction: Dec 11, 1.9°; Dec 12, 2.5°; Dec 13, 3.4°, Venus is to the upper left of Saturn; Dec 14, 4.4°, Dec 15, 5.4°. Venus continues eastward against the starry background, moving farther away from Saturn. on December 19, one hour after sunset, Venus, 12° up in the southwest, is nearly 10° to the upper left of Saturn. Venus moves into Capricornus.

2019, December 28: The crescent moon is 2.4° below brilliant Venus.

By the end of 2019, the crescent moon rejoins Venus.  One December 28, about an hour after sunset, Venus is about 15° up in the southwest. The moon (2.8d, 8%) is 2.4° below the planet.

Venus as an Evening Star in 2020

2020, January 15: Venus shines brightly in the western sky in early 2020.

Venus begins the New Year among the dimmer stars of eastern Capricornus.  Now setting abut 3 hours after the sun, watch Venus move eastward into Aquarius and toward a Neptune conjunction.

2020, January 27″ The moon appears near the star Phi Aquarii and the planet Neptune. A small telescope or binocular is needed to see Neptune that appears as a bluish “star.”

Venus continues moving eastward, appearing higher in the sky when it is completely dark.  By January 27, Venus is 40° east of the sun. At the end of evening twilight, Venus, 18° up in the west-southwest, is 0.2° to the upper left of Neptune, nearly 7° above the crescent moon (3.1d, 9%) and 0.2° to the lower right of Phi Aquarii.  A binocular or small telescope is needed to see Neptune.

On the next evening, January 28, at the end of evening twilight Venus, about 18° up in the west-southwest, is 7° below the moon (4.1d, 15%).

Venus Moves Into Pisces

During February brilliant Venus, still moving about 1.2° each day along the ecliptic, moves into Pisces and passes several dimmer stars.  The starry background is dim.

2020, February 26 & 27: The crescent moon appears near Venus.

By the end of February, the crescent moon is back in the evening sky.  On February 26, at the end of twilight, the moon (3.4d, 10%), 14° up in the west, is 10° to the lower left of Venus. On the next evening, February 27, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, 25° up in the west, is nearly 7° to the right of the waxing crescent moon (4.4d, 16%)

Venus Moves Through Aries: A Venus – Uranus Conjunction

During March, Venus crosses into Aries, passing far from the constellation’s brighter stars.  It is heading toward a conjunction with Uranus

2020, March 7: Venus passes Uranus. Use a binocular to locate the dimmer planet.

Venus closes in on the planet Uranus.  On March 7, Venus is 2.2° to the right of Uranus.  The planet is brighter than Neptune, which Venus passed in January.  In a dark sky, Uranus is visible in a dark sky to those with good eyesight.  Use a binocular to see it easier.

2020, March 24: Venus reaches its greatest separation from the sun as seen from Earth.

Venus continues to set later in the evening and appears farther from the sun.  On March 24, Venus is at greatest elongation (46.1°) at 5:13 p.m. CDT. We see Venus farthest from the sun during these evenings. At the end of evening twilight, Venus is over 25° up in the west.

2020, March 27 & 28: Venus closes in on the Pleiades as the moon passes by the brilliant planet.

As the weather warms in the northern hemisphere, Venus approaches the Pleiades star cluster.  Here we reference the Pleiades with its brightest star Alcyone (Eta Tauri)  The moon enters the region with Venus.  On March 27, Venus is nearly 10° to the upper right of the waxing crescent moon (3.7d, 12%) and 6.5° to the lower right of the Pleiades. Here are the gaps as Venus closes in on the star cluster: March 30, 3.6°; March 31, 2.7°; April 1, 1.8°; April 2, 0.9°, Venus is below Alcyone.

On March 28, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, 26° up in the west, is 8° to the lower right of the moon (4.7d, 18%) and 5.5° to the lower right of the Pleiades. The trio – Venus, Moon, and Pleiades – makes nearly an equilateral triangle. Venus sets at its maximum interval after sunset – 4 hours, 7 minutes, through April 7.

Venus in Taurus: A Spectacular Pleiades Conjunction

2020: Venus approaches and moves past the Pleiades star cluster during late March and Early April. The closest date is April 3, 2020 when the planet is 0.3° to the lower left of the star cluster.

In late March, Venus moves into Taurus, heading for a conjunction with the Pleiades. During April, Venus moves between the Pleiades and Hyades and toward Elnath (Beta Tauri, m = 1.6), the Bull’s northern horn.  As Venus approaches the star, it begins a rapid descent toward the western horizon, toward its early June inferior conjunction.

On March 30,  Venus moves into Taurus, 3.6° to the lower right of Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster.  The next evening, March 31, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, over 25° up in the west, is 2.7° to the lower right of Alcyone.

As April opens Venus is in the west near the Pleiades.  On April 3, one hour after sunset, Venus, 30° up in the west, is 0.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.  This is the closest Venus gets to the Pleiades on this evening appearance.

On the next evening, April 4, on this evening and for the next few evenings Venus and Sirius are at nearly the same altitude in the west at about 9 p.m. CDT in Chicago, a few minutes after the end of evening twilight (about 105 minutes after sunset). While Venus and Sirius are too far apart for technical comparisons of their brightness difference, the brightest star and the brightest planet are the same altitude in the western sky. Sirius, Orion’s belt, Aldebaran, and Venus are nearly in a line across the western horizon. The Venus – Alcyone gap, 0.9°.  Gaps as Venus moves eastward along the ecliptic and away from the Pleiades: April 5, 1.8°; April 6, 2.7°; April 7, 3.5°; April 8, 4.6°; April 9, 5.2°.

Venus moves between the Pleiades and the Hyades.  On April 9, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, nearly 25° up in the west-northwest, is below a line that extends from Aldebaran to Epsilon Tauri.  Venus passes nearly nearly 7° to the upper right of Epsilon Tauri on April 12.

 

Venus appears at its greatest brightness when it is midway between its greatest elongation and its inferior conjunction.

Venus continues to brighten from its first appearance in the evening sky.  Beginning April 13,  Venus reaches its maximum brightness until May 10. The midpoint, April 27, is marked on the setting chart (GB) near the beginning of the article. While the planet may grow brighter, as measured with detailed light measurements through a telescope, our eyes likely cannot perceive the minute difference in brightness during this duration. The planet reaches its latest setting time 11:33 p.m. CDT in Chicago, 243 minutes after sunset.  This setting time continues until April 18.

Venus continues its climb through Taurus.  On April 14, one hour after sunset, Venus, 30° up in the west, passes nearly 10° to the upper right of Aldebaran.  A week later, April 21, Venus sets at its northern most setting azimuth (309°). It sets here until May 14.

2020, April 26: The moon is to the left of Venus among the stars of Taurus..

As Venus continues through Taurus, it moves toward Beta Tauri, the northern horn of the Bull. On April 26, One hour after sunset, Venus, over 25° up in the west-northwest, is over 7° to the right of the crescent moon (4d, 14%). The planet is 5.5° to the lower right of Beta Tauri. The moon is 5° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn of Taurus.

Venus is at the interval of greatest brightness on April 27. On this evening, the waxing crescent moon (5.0d, 22%) is over 17° to the upper left of Venus. The planet has an elongation of 40°, and it is midway between its greatest elongation and inferior conjunction. Venus is at its greatest illuminated extent.  The illuminated portion of the planet covers the largest area of the sky. (For a more technical explanation of greatest illuminated extent, see https://tinyurl.com/venus-greatest-illuminated.) Venus closes in on Beta Tauri.  The gaps: Apr 27, 5.1°; Apr 28, 4.6°; Apr 29, 4.1°; Apr 30, 3.7°.

A Venus – Beta Tauri Quasi-Conjunction and a Venus – Mercury Conjunction

2020: Venus approaches but it does not pass Beta Tauri, the northern horn of Taurus, for a quasi-conjunction (near conjunction).  Look for Venus and the star about 60 minutes after sunset in the west-northwest.

During May, Venus rapidly descends toward the western horizon, as measured from its setting time compared to the sun. Venus is nearing its quasi-conjunction (or near conjunction) with Beta Tauri.  The gap between the brilliant planet and the star: May 1, 3.3°; May 2, 2.9°; May 3, 2.6°; May 4, 2.3°; May 5, 2.1°; May 6, 1.9°; May 7, 1.7°; May 8, 1.6°, May 9, 1.5°.

On May 10, Venus is at its closest approach to Beta Tauri, a quasi-conjunction or “near conjunction.” One hour after sunset, Venus, over 17° up in the west-northwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of the star.

The next evening, May 11, Venus is 30° east of the sun. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap is still 1.4°, but slightly larger than last night, when the small fractions of a degree are included in the measurement.  The Venus – Beta Tauri gap begins to widen:  May 12, 1.5°; May 13, 1.6°; May 14, 1.7°; May 15, 1.8°; May 16, 2.0°; May 17, 2.2°; May 18, 2.4°.

On May 19, Venus sets at the end of evening twilight, nearly 2 hours after sunset. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, 11° up in the west northwest, is 2.7° from Beta Tauri.  As this celestial pair descends toward the western horizon during the next several evenings, Mercury emerges from the sun’s glare for its evening apparition.  This evening. Venus is 4.8° to the upper left of Mercury (m = −0.8).  Watching Mercury’s rapid movement during the next several evenings, you will see it move from Venus’ lower right to its upper left.

Venus is moving very rapidly toward the sun.  On May 20, Venus  is 20° from the sun. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap is 3.0° and bright Mercury is 2.8° to the lower right of brilliant Venus.  During the next few evenings, the Venus- Beta Tauri gap continues to widen: May 21, 3.4°; May 22, 3.8°.

Mercury closes in on Venus.  On May 21, Venus, in the west-northwest, is 1.1° to the upper right of bright Mercury, a conjunction. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap is 3.4°.

2020, May 22: Look for brilliant Venus, Mercury and Beta Tauri 45 minutes after sunset in the west-northwest.

On May 22, Venus, Mercury, and Beta Tauri make a compact triangle. Venus is 1.6° to the lower right of Mercury; Venus is 3.8° below Beta Tauri; and the Mercury – Beta Tauri gap is 3.4°. Tomorrow evening the moon enters the scene.

2020, May 23: The crescent moon joins Venus, Mercury, and Beta Tauri, 45 minutes after sunset.

During the next evening, May 23, at 45 minutes after sunset, Venus, about 8° up in the west-northwest, is 4.7° to the upper right of the crescent moon (1.3d, 2%). The Venus – β Tauri gap is 4.2°. Mercury  is 3.6° to the upper left of Venus and 3.1° to the lower left of Beta Tauri.

2020, May 24: The crescent moon appears to the upper left of Venus, Mercury and Beta Tauri 45 minutes after sunset. Note the changing positions of Venus and Mercury compared to the star.

This spectacle is not, yet, finished. On May 24,  Venus, bright Mercury , Moon (2.3d, 5%), and Beta Tauri are near each other. The planets and the star make a triangle.  Mercury is 5.5° to the upper left of Venus, nearly midway from Venus to the moon that is nearly 12° to the upper left of Venus, although Mercury is above a line that connects Venus and the moon.  Betai is 4.6° above Venus and 3.5° to the upper right of Mercury. Venus’ elongation from the sun is 15°.

The next evening, May 25, 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is 4° up in the west-northwest. The planet continues to make a triangle with Mercury and Beta Tauri.  Venus is 5.1° to the lower right of the star, while Mercury is 4.5° to the upper left of Beta Tauri. Venus sets at Nautical Twilight, over an hour after sunset.  The observing window is rapidly closing to see Venus.  The gaps of the two planets and star continue to grow as Venus disappears into brighter twilight.

Venus is now quickly disappearing into bright twilight.  On May 28, 30 minutes after sunset, Venus is less than 3° up in the west-northwest. The planet is  only 9° from the sun, setting only 49 minutes after sunset.

By May 30, Venus sets at Civil Twilight, 32 minutes after sunset.  Good-bye, Venus, for this appearance!

2020: June 3: Venus passes between Earth and sun (Inferior Conjunction).

On June 3, Venus is at inferior conjunction, 12:44 p.m. CDT, when it is 0.5° north of the sun and 58” across.

This evening apparition of Venus has several exciting conjunctions with planets and stars. As with every evening appearance, Venus slowly moves into the sky.  As the evening ecliptic takes a more favorable angle as the weather warms and daylight grows, the planet reaches its latest setting time and greatest brightness as Spring arrives. At this time, it has a spectacular conjunction with the Pleiades and a near-conjunction with Beta Tauri before it seemingly dives between our planet and the sun to reappear in the morning sky.  Early during the next apparition,  Venus has a double conjunction with Aldebaran and a traverse through the Hyades in a fairly dark sky.   It also passes several bright stars near the ecliptic including Regulus and Spica.  Appearances of Venus with the moon provide broader views of the sky.  As noted in the daily descriptions, Venus has conjunctions with Saturn and Jupiter, but they occur during bright twilight.   When the Venusian cycle repeats its motions in eight years, Venus goes into the Pleiades appearing nearly between Merope and Alcyone.

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2019, November 24: A Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

2016, August 27: A Venus-Jupiter conjunction.

As Venus emerges from the sun’s glare from its superior conjunction, Jupiter is heading toward its solar conjunction in late November 2019.  Venus passes Jupiter in a second conjunction between the two planets during this appearance of Jupiter that started late in 2018.

Venus is brighter in our sky because it is closer to Earth, so it appears larger in the sky than Jupiter.  Clouds cover this nearby planet and they reflect over 75% of the sunlight that hits them.  Farther Jupiter reflects about 50% of the sunlight that reaches its clouds.  The result is that Venus is about 3 times brighter than Jupiter, the two brightest “stars” in the southwest.

Here’s how to see the event

The passing of these two planets is a slow moving show that occurs over several nights.  First, find a clear horizon in the southwest, free from trees, houses, buildings, and other possible obstructions.

In the charts that follow, several of them are displayed for a time interval after sunset.  Use local sources for the time of your sunset.  The U.S. Naval Observatory has an online calculator that displays a year of sunrises and sunsets.  Enter your state and city into Form A on the website. For readers outside the U.S., enter your longitude and latitude in Form B for your yearly table.  Click here.

Start looking for Venus and Jupiter about 30 minutes after sunset. A binocular may help with the initial identification of the two planets.  After that first observation go outside at about the same time each evening.

While low in the sky, Venus is the brightest object in the southwest.  If you live near a busy airport, the planet’s visual intensity rivals lights on airplanes.  Wait for a minute, you’ll see the airplane move through the region. Venus will seem to hang there.  Jupiter is not as bright, the second brightest starlike point of light to Venus’ upper left.  Each evening until November 24, Venus gets closer to Jupiter.

Begin looking in late October when the moon is near Venus.

2019, October 29: The crescent moon appears near Venus. Jupiter is to the upper left of Venus and the moon.

The moon makes its first appearance with Venus on October 29.   Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon appears to the upper left of Venus, only 4° up in the southwest with bright Jupiter to the upper left of the pair. The moon is 1.8 days old, past its New phase, and 4.4% illuminated.  The moon appears with Jupiter two evenings later (October 31).

2019, November 13: The Venus-Jupiter gap is 10°.

On November 13, thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is over 10°. (Your fist, at arm’s length, is about 10 degrees from the knuckle of your thumb to the knuckle of your pinky finger.)  Venus is 6° up in the southwest.  Look for the planets each clear evening during the next several evenings.

2019, November 19: Look low in the southwest for Venus and Jupiter about 45 minutes after sunset.

In about a week, the gap closes between the planets. On November 19 their separation is about 5°.  About 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is 4° up in the southwest.

The Venus continues to close in on Jupiter. The separations until the conjunction:

  • Nov 20, 3.9°;
  • Nov 21, 2.8°;
  • Nov 22, 2.1°;
  • Nov 23, 1.5°, Venus is to the lower left of Jupiter.  The pair is nearly as close as they are tomorrow evening.
2019, November 24: Venus-Jupiter conjunction!

On  the evening of November 24, Venus and Jupiter appear closest! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter.  The separation has the same distance as three times the moon’s apparent size in the sky.  Not the actual size, but the size the moon appears in the sky. The planets appear close together in the sky, but Venus and Jupiter are over 430 million miles apart, over 4 times the earth’s distance from the sun.

Now watch Venus appear to separate and move away from Jupiter.  The separations after conjunction:

  • Nov 25, 2°, Venus is to the left of Jupiter;
  • Nov 26, 2.8°;
  • Nov 27, 3.7°, Venus is to the upper left of Jupiter;
  • Nov 28, 4.7°

Next Venus moves toward a conjunction with Saturn on December 10.

Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions, 2021-2024

Conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter are frequent, but approximately a year apart beginning with a difficult-to-see conjunction in 2021.  The following table provides explanation of the upcoming meetings.

Date Separation When Description
February 11, 2021 26’ Morning This pairing is very difficult to see in the eastern sky as the planets rise in bright twilight just 25 minutes before sunrise.
April 30, 2022 29’ Morning The planets rise in the eastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise.  In separation, this rivals the gap of the June 2015 conjunction, although it is lower in the sky.
March 1, 2023 32’ Evening This conjunction rivals the June 2015 pairing, with the planets high in the west after sunset, setting 2 hours, 30 minutes after the sun.
May 23, 2024 15’ Morning This pairing is impossible for casual observers to see as it occurs when the planets are nearly behind the sun hidden in the solar glare.

2019: Winter Morning Planet Parade Album

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On a recent trip to a more southerly latitude, the morning planets presented themselves high in the sky.  This album shows them on the mornings of February 28, March 1, and March 2, 2019.  When travelling farther south, the southern stars and planets appear higher in the southern sky.

2019: Saturn’s Year in Sagittarius

Magnificent Saturn (NASA Photo)

During 2019, Magnificent Saturn has a dramatic display in the southern skies throughout the year.  It is headed toward a Great Conjunction with Jupiter in 2020.  During this appearance Venus passes the planet twice.

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Photo Gallery

Other Feature articles:

Saturn in eastern Sagittarius (Constellation image from Starry Night Pro)

Saturn appears in front of the stars of Sagittarius, although a little farther east compared to its location in 2018.  It appears to the upper left of the famous stars of The Teapot of Sagittarius.  To the unaided eye, the planet appears as a bright yellow-orange star.

Saturn: The Apparition Begins at Conjunction

Saturn revolves around the sun slowly, one orbit in nearly 30 Earth years.  The planet does not move very far against the background of stars.  Since it is heading toward a region of dim stars, the starry background is better known by their catalog names than their common names. Saturn starts its apparition about 4° to the upper left of Nunki (σ Sag, m = 2.0).  During the apparition, the Ringed Wonder moves beneath three other stars in the constellation: Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr, m = 2.9), Omicron Sagittarii (ο Sgr, m = 3.8), and Xi2 Sagittarii (ξ2 Sgr, m = 3.5). (The “m” number indicates the brightness of a star.  The lower the number the brighter the star.  Venus has a negative number because of its brilliance.  The stars listed here are dimmer stars, visible to most observers, but they are not easily seen near street lights.  A binocular helps to distinguish them in the sky.)

Saturn at conjunction, January 1, 2019.

Saturn’s apparition begins with its solar conjunction on January 1, 2019.  Saturn is behind the sun and largely invisible to us.  It rises with the sun, crosses south near noon, and sets with the sun in the west.  As Earth, moving much faster than Saturn, begins to close the space to Saturn, the Ringed Wonder appears in the morning sky.

The morning sky during 2019. The chart shows the rising time of planets, bright stars near the planets’ paths and the moon (circles), along with the three phases of twilight. White boxes indicate conjunctions.

As the chart above indicates, Saturn slowly rises into the morning sky, rising earlier each day.  By January 11, Saturn rises at Civil Twilight, when the sun is 6° below the horizon.  The sky is bright at 30 minutes before sunrise.  Eleven days later it rises at Nautical Twilight, about 60 minutes before sunrise, when the sun is 12° below the horizon.  Thirty minutes later it is low in the southeast, visible with a binocular.  On February 3, it rises at the beginning of twilight (Astronomical Twilight).  It becomes easier to see without optical assistance.  It joins brilliant Morning Star Venus and bright Jupiter in the southeast before sunrise.

The First Venus Conjunction

On February 18, Venus passes 1.1° to the upper left of Saturn.  Jupiter is far to the upper right of Saturn.

This chart displays Saturn’s apparent motion during 2019

All the objects beyond Earth’s orbit display an unusual pattern midway through their apparitions, retrograde motion.  The planet appears to move backward against the stars.  Our ancestors were captivated with explaining this unusual motion, especially when Earth was considered to be at the center of the universe.  Today we understand this is an illusion of our faster moving Earth passing the slower moving outer planets.  Retrograde motion occurs for Mercury and Venus as well, but it is from their faster speeds around the sun.  The chart above shows the retrograde pattern of Saturn in eastern Sagittarius.

This chart shows more detail in Saturn’s retrograde motion, along with the dimmer background stars. Two conjunctions with Venus are displayed.

The chart above shows a more detailed view of Saturn’s motion against eastern Sagittarius, along with the two conjunctions with Venus.

Saturn at Morning Quadrature

Saturn continues to rises earlier but gently moves eastward along its celestial path and against the starry background.

Saturn appears 90° west of the sun on April 9, 2019. Look for it in the south near sunrise.

By early April Saturn is 90° west of the sun, appearing in the south near sunrise. The planet rises at about 2:30 a.m. CDT.  It is about 26° up in the south as sunrise approaches.  By late April, Earth closes in on Saturn and the planet seems to stop moving eastward and it begins to retrograde on April 29.  (See the two time-lapse charts above that show Saturn’s apparent motion compared to the starry background.)

Saturn at Opposition

By mid-May, Saturn is rising around midnight (CDT).

Saturn at Opposition, July 9, 2019

Earth is rapidly catching Saturn.  The planet continues to rise earlier and on July 9, it rises in the southeast at sunset  The sun and Saturn are on opposite sides of Earth.  When the sun sets, Saturn rises.  At midnight, Saturn is south, opposite 12 hours when the sun is south (at noon).  Saturn sets in the southwest at sunrise. Opposition.  This occurs about in the middle of the planet’s retrograde motion.

Saturn then rises before sunset appearing higher in the southeast as the sky darkens.  By mid-September Saturn’s retrograde motion slows and the planet stops moving westward compared to the starry background on September 17.

Saturn is in the south near sunset on October 7, 2019

A few weeks later, Saturn appears 90° east of the sun, meaning it’s in the south at sunset.

A Second Venus Conjunction

Saturn is then farther west at sunset; it is heading toward its solar conjunction.

Venus passes Saturn on December 10, 2019.

As Saturn heads towards that solar conjunction in early 2020, Venus, during its evening apparition, passes 1.8° to the lower left of Saturn in the southwest.  This occurs on December 10, 2019.  Look about one hour after sunset.

Saturn Toward Conjunction

Saturn then begins to disappear into bright evening twilight in the western sky, the reverse of how it appeared in the morning sky. The events:

  • December 19, Saturn sets at Astronomical Twilight.
  • December 28, Saturn sets at Nautical Twilight.
  • January 5, 2020, Saturn sets at Civil Twilight.
Saturn returns to its solar conjunction on January 13, 2020.

Saturn then seems to move behind the sun for its solar conjunction, January 13, 2020.

In Saturn’s next apparition, Jupiter passes it in late December 2020.  This apparition ends with Jupiter about 17° west of Saturn.

Saturn and the Moon

The moon appears near Saturn several times during the apparition.  If you observe Saturn just once a month when the moon is nearby, you’ll see a complete cycle of moon phases.

Before Opposition Separation After Opposition Separation
February 2 3.1° July 15 1.8°
March 1 3.2° August 11 3.3°
March 29 3.0° September 7 5.5°
April 25 2.7° October 5 2.9°
May 23 5.7° November 1 3.7°
June 18 1.3° November 29 1.9°
December 27 5.6°

2018-2019: Jupiter Dances with the Snake Handler

Jupiter during its 2017-2018 apparition

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2018-2019 Photo Gallery

During its 2018-2019 apparition, Jupiter appears among the southern stars of Ophiuchus, the Snake Handler.  Just one apparition before its Great Conjunction with Saturn, Jupiter has two conjunctions with Venus.  Jupiter moves through southern Ophiuchus in front of dimmer stars  Its passage is worth noting in a dark sky or with binoculars.

The positions of Jupiter, sun and Earth at Jupiter’s conjunction on November 26, 2018.

Jupiter passes behind the sun early in the morning on November 26, 2018.  At this solar conjunction, Jupiter is not visible as it is hiding in the sun’s glare.   The chart above shows the position of Jupiter, sun and Earth at Jupiter’s conjunction.  From Earth, Jupiter is “behind” the sun.

Jupiter appears in front of the stars of Ophiuchus, the Snake Handler, during its 2018-2019 appearance.
(Artwork from Starry Night Pro)

The chart above shows the position of Jupiter in June 2019 compared to the background stars.  The sun, moon, and planets appear to move in front of a seemingly fixed background of stars we call the constellations.  They make familiar patterns.  The 88 constellations are also made of bright and dim stars outside those figures.  Constellation boundaries are irregularly-shaped patches of sky resembling a jumbled quilt or counties in a state.

To some, Ophiuchus is the “newly discovered 13th sign of the zodiac.”  This announcement is made every few years, but the constellation has existed since constellations were invented to track the skies of our ancestors.  There’s nothing new here.  The sun appears to move in front of Ophiuchus from about November 30 through December 17, 17 days compared to the 6 days it’s in front of the stars of Scorpius.  For most of its appearance during the next year, Jupiter shines from in front of stars of Ophiuchus’ feet.

This chart shows the relative motion of Jupiter compared to the background stars of Ophiuchus (Oph)
from December 24, 2018 through November 24, 2019.  Jupiter has two conjunctions with Venus
during this apparition. Greek letters are used to name the dimmer stars in the sky.

The planets appear to move eastward as they revolve around the sun.  They rise in the east and set in west each day as our planet rotates.  Jupiter moves slowly eastward compared to the distant stars, taking nearly 12 years to through all the constellations.  As our planet, moving 12 times faster, catches Jupiter nearly every year, Jupiter seems to stop moving eastward (April 10, 2019) and seems to move backwards or retrograde.  This is an optical illusion.  As it retrogrades, our planet passes between Jupiter and the sun (opposition, June 10, 2019).  After we pass by, Jupiter seems to stop retrograding (August 11, 2019) and appears to resume its forward or direct motion.  The illusion of the retrograde motion was one of the early challenges to explain.  If the earth were stationary, then must be a series of hoops that carried the planets.  The secondary hoops moved backwards at regular intervals, depending on the planet.  When it was clearly demonstrated that the earth moves (not an easy feat that was only demonstrated after the development of larger telescopes). the retrograde pattern was easily explained by a faster moving inner planet moving past a slower moving outer planet.

This chart shows the rising time of Jupiter and other bright celestial objects from Jupiter’s conjunction
until it rises 5 hours before sunrise.  Conjunctions with Mercury, Antares, and Venus are shown with
boxes.  The rising of the moon is shown with circles.  When the lines of two objects cross, they rise at the
same time.  Conjunctions can occur a few days before or after the intersection of the lines.  Chart
made from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

Slowly after conjunction, the planet begins to climb into the morning southeastern sky.  By December 3, it rises about 30 minutes before sunrise. Locate it in bright twilight with a binocular.  Watch it appear higher in the sky each morning at the same time.  Ten days later it rises about an hour before sunrise.  Thirty minutes before sunrise, it is only 5° up in the east-southeastern sky,  Near the middle of December, Jupiter rises at Nautical Twilight, about 65 minutes before sunrise.  At this time, the horizon is barely distinguishable.  Historically, this was important for sailors to be able to make celestial measurements for navigation that references the natural horizon with at sea.

Jupiter, Mercury, and Antares

As Jupiter emerges into the morning sky from its solar conjunction, it is grouped with Mercury and Antares.  Mercury passes Jupiter on December 21.  Brilliant Venus is far to the upper right of the grouping; it closes the gap early during Jupiter’s apparition.  Here are the details of the grouping.

This chart shows a time-lapse of 5 mornings, 45 minutes before sunrise, during late December.  Look
into the southeastern sky.  A binocular helps locate the dimmer stars.

  • December 19: Jupiter is 0.8° to upper right of Omega Ophiuchi (ω Oph) and 5.3° to the upper left of Antares, although the star is only 3° in altitude. Use a binocular to find it.  Bright Mercury is 2.5° to the upper right of Jupiter and 1° to the upper right of Psi Ophiuchi (ψ Oph).
  • December 20: At 45 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is nearly 7° up in the southeast. The planet is 5.2° to the upper left of Antares.  Mercury is 1.6° to Jupiter’s upper right.

  • December 21: Jupiter and Mercury are 0.9° apart this morning. Jupiter is 0.6° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi. Mercury, Jupiter, and Antares are nearly in a line spanning 6.1°. Today marks two years until the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, when they appear 0.1° apart!
  • December 22: At 45 minutes before sunrise, Mercury is 1.2° to the left of Jupiter. Jupiter is 25.2° to the lower left of brilliant Venus this morning.  Watch Venus close the gap during the next month

.

  • December 23: Jupiter rises over 100 minutes before sunrise, at the beginning of twilight.  This morning, Jupiter passes 5.2° above Antares.  The Giant Planet appears 0.2° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi. Use a binocular or a small aperture telescope to resolve the pair.  The Jupiter-Mercury gap has grown to 2°.  Mercury is to the lower left of Jupiter.

By year’s end Jupiter rises over 2 hours before sunrise.  It is well off the southeastern horizon as twilight progresses.

Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

Early in the new year, Jupiter rises into the sky before twilight begins. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter approach a morning conjunction.  Venus rapidly moves eastward among the stars, about a degree a day compared to Jupiter.  They are heading for a widely-spaced conjunction on January 22. Watch the Venus-Jupiter gap close:  January 5, 15°; January 11, 10.1°; January 17, 5.1°.

  • January 1, 2019: At the beginning of the new year, look for a wide grouping of the crescent moon, two planets, and a bright star. At 45 minutes before sunrise, the waning crescent moon is 29° up in the south-southeast, slightly below a virtual line that connects Zubenelgenubi (α Lib) and Zubeneschamali (β Lib).  Venus is 4.7° to the lower left of the moon.  Jupiter, 11° up in the southeast, is 18° to the lower left of Venus.  Antares is 5.5° to the lower right of Jupiter.

  • January 22: At mid-twilight, 40 minutes before sunrise, the Venus-Jupiter pair appears 22° up in the southeast. Venus is 2.4° to the upper left of Jupiter in this widely-space conjunction. Watch Venus move away from Jupiter on the mornings that follow.

By the end of January, the Venus-Jupiter gap is nearly 8° .  Jupiter rises nearly 3 hours, 30 minutes before the sun.  At an hour before sunrise, Jupiter is 19°  up in the southeast.

Jupiter at Morning Quadrature

The positions of Jupiter, sun and Earth when Jupiter is 90° from the sun on March 13, 2019.

During March, Jupiter continues to rise earlier.  On March 1, it rises just after 2 a.m. local time.  On March 13, Jupiter around 2:30 a.m. CDT.   This morning it is 90° west of the sun.  As twilight begins, this Giant Planet is 25°  up in the south.  The planet continues to rise earlier and appear farther west during morning twilight.

On April 10 Jupiter begins to retrograde.  It is 15° to the upper left of Antares.  During the next six weeks, with a binocular, watch Jupiter move through the dim star field of southern Ophiuchus.  By April 19, the planet is rising before midnight, continuing to rise earlier each evening.  The time of its rising is very noticeable each week.  Our planet is catching Jupiter.

Jupiter at Opposition

The positions of the sun, Earth and Jupiter when Jupiter is at opposition, June 10, 2018.

On June 10, Earth passes between Jupiter and the sun.  Jupiter is nearly 400 million miles away. The sun and Jupiter are in opposite directions in the sky.  When the sun sets, Jupiter rises in the southeast.  It is south around midnight, setting in the southwest at sunrise.  After opposition, Jupiter rises in the sky before sunset.  By month’s end, Jupiter is well above the southeastern horizon as the sky darkens after sunset.

Jupiter continues to retrograde, reaching the farthest western point on August 11, 2019.


This chart shows the setting time of Jupiter and other bright celestial objects beginning with Jupiter setting 5 hours after sunset until its conjunction.  A conjunction occurs with Venus on November 24.
The setting moon is shown with circles.  When the lines of two objects cross, they set at the
same time.  Conjunctions can occur a few days before or after the intersection of the lines.  Chart
made from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

Jupiter appears on the setting chart in mid-August, when it sets 5 hours after sunset.  Notice how the Jupiter setting curve angles away from the Antares setting line and toward the Saturn setting line.  Jupiter’s setting curve intersects with Venus, indicating a conjunction (November 24).

Jupiter at Evening Quadrature

The positions of the sun, Earth, and Jupiter when Jupiter is 90° east of the sun, September 8, 2019.

Jupiter continues to appear higher in the sky each night as Earth pulls away.  On September 8, Jupiter is 90° from the sun in the evening sky,  Jupiter is in the south at sunset, setting at nearly 11:30 p.m. CDT.

From this point, Jupiter appears closer to the southwestern horizon at sunset.

A Second Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

During Venus’ evening apparition late in 2019, Venus passes Jupiter again.  Not a close (epoch) conjunction, but the planets are closer than January’s meeting.  The pair appears 1.4°  apart.  Start watching the Venus-Jupiter gap early in the month.  Here are the separations:

Nov 4:     20°
Nov 9:     15°
Nov 14:   10°
Nov 19:     5°
Nov 22:     2°

After the conjunction, the gap:

Nov 25:     2°
Nov 27:     7°

Toward Conjunction

On the evening of the conjunction with Venus, Jupiter sets as twilight ends, so begins its slow slide back into bright sunlight toward its solar conjunction.  As the Venus gaps grows, Jupiter sets at Nautical Twilight, (66 minutes after sunset) on December 6.  It sets at Civil Twilight (30 minutes after sunset) on December 17.  Civil Twilight is about the time that street lights turn on.

The positions of the sun, Earth, and Jupiter when Jupiter returns to its solar conjunction, December 27, 2019.

Jupiter’s appearance ends with its solar conjunction on December 29, 2019.  It then begins another appearance in the morning sky in 2020, the year of the Great Conjunction with Saturn when Jupiter passes very close to Saturn!

Jupiter and the Moon

Dates when Jupiter and the moon appear together

Before Opposition.

January 3:  3.5°
January 30/31:  6.2°/5.7°
February 27: 2°
March 27: 4.3°
April 23: 1°
May 20:  4.7°

After Opposition

June 16: 4.7°
July 13: 7.8°
August 9: 2.2°
September 5: 4°
October 3: 1.8°
October 31: 4.5°
November 28: 5.8°