- Jupiter and Mars in the morning sky during early February 2020
- Moon Eclipses Mars on February 18
- Saturn joins Jupiter and Mars later in the month
- Moon passes Jupiter (Feb 19) and Saturn (Feb 20)
As Jupiter and Saturn head toward their once every generation Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020, they appear higher in the morning sky during February.
During February 2020, Jupiter becomes easier to see in the morning sky with dimmer Mars. The Red Planet is to the lower left of the star Antares. The chart above shows the sky on February 5. A more detailed note for the morning:
- February 5: Saturn rises at Nautical Twilight. One hour before sunrise, Mars, over 17° up in the southeast, is 0.9° to the upper left of 44 Ophiuchi (44 Oph, m = 4.2). Look for Jupiter low in the southeast, about 5° up in the sky.
The moon moves close to the planets after mid-month. As sunrise approaches in the Central Time Zone, the moon moves near Mars. Just after sunrise from the Chicago area, the moon covers (occults) Mars. An occultation is a type of eclipse that does not involve the sun. Here’s the detailed note:
- February 18: One hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (24.6 days past the New phase, 24% illuminated), about 17° up in the southeast, is 0.4° to the right of Mars. If you look earlier, when the moon is lower in the darker sky, the lunar crescent is between M8 and M20. This is clearly a bit of a stretch to have a good view of the nebulae, the moon, and Mars. The objects’ low altitudes and the approaching twilight make this a challenge. Notice that Mars is 1.5° to the upper right of 1 Sagittarii (1 Sgr, m =4.9). Watch it approach and pass the star during the next few mornings. Jupiter is to the lower left of the Moon – Mars pair, nearly 11° up in the southeast. Saturn is to the lower left of Jupiter, likely lost behind terrestrial obstructions. As sunrise approaches, the crescent moon inches toward Mars. If you can track Mars into a brighter sky, the moon occults it a few minutes after 6 a.m. CST. Observers in the Western U.S. see the moon occult Mars in a darker sky.
As the mornings progress Saturn appears higher in the sky and easier to see.
The moon passes Jupiter on February 19 and Saturn the following morning. Find a location with a clear horizon to the southeast. On February 19, the moon is to the right of Jupiter. The next morning the lunar crescent to the lower right of Saturn Here are detailed notes for those mornings:
- February 19: One hour before sunrise, the old moon (25.6d, 16%) is 10° up in the southeast. It is 4.0° to the right of bright Jupiter. The planet is 1.7° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii. Saturn is over 9° to the lower left of Jupiter. Dimmer Mars, over 16° up in the south-southeast, is nearly 12° to the upper right of the thin lunar crescent. The planet is 0.8° to the upper right of 1 Sagittarii. Watch Mars approach Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr, m =2.8), the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. This morning Mars is nearly 5° to the upper right of the star.
- February 20: One hour before sunrise, Mars is over 16° in altitude in the south-southeast. With a binocular observe that it is 0.2° to the upper right of 1 Sagittarii. This morning Mars is 4.2° to the upper right of Kaus Borealis. Bright Jupiter, 10° up in the southeast, is nearly 15° to the lower left of the Red Planet. The Giant Planet is 1.9° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii. About fifteen minutes later, the moon (26.6d, 9%) is 2.6° to the right of Saturn and 9.0° to the lower left of Jupiter. Saturn is over 7° up in the southeast.
For those wanting to read the detailed notes for each day, here is my summary for February 2020.