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.
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.
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.
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.