Tag Archives: Hyades

2020, August 4: Four Morning Planets, Bright Moon

Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter shine from the morning sky.  The morning planet parade breaks apart.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

About two hours before sunrise, brilliant Venus gleams from the eastern sky.  It is near the Southern Horn of Taurus the Bull, known as Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the photo). 

For over a month, Venus has been moving eastward in Taurus.  Tomorrow, Venus moves into the club region of Orion.  Bellatrix, a shoulder of Orion, is visible in the photo above.

Mars in Pisces, August 4, 2020
2020, August 4: Shining from the dim stars of Pisces, Mars is is 0.3° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc on the photo) and 3.7° to the lower right of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc).

About an hour earlier, with a bright moon in the sky and only four hours past its official Full phase, Mars shines from the dim starfield of Pisces. It continues to march eastward along the solar system’s plane.  Use a binocular to track Mars through the starfield, especially with the bright moon in the sky for the next several mornings.

Next month, the Red Planet starts to retrograde.  Mars appears to move westward compared to the stars.  On October 13, 2020, Earth passes between the planet and the sun.  Mars and the sun are in opposite directions from Earth.  This is known as opposition.  The planet rises in the east at sunset and sets in the west at sunrise.  Around opposition, Mars is closest to Earth and appears at its brightest.  This occurs a week before opposition.

This morning Mars is 0.3° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc on the photo) and 3.7° to the lower right of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc).

Jupiter and Saturn, August 4, 2020
2020, August 4: Appearing low in the southwest, Jupiter and Saturn are disappearing from the early morning sky. This morning, Saturn is 7.8° to the upper left of Jupiter.

Jupiter and Saturn are appearing very low in the sky at this hour.  Better views occur when the planets are in the evening sky.  Ninety minutes after sunset, they are shining from low in the southeastern sky,

Both planets are retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.  They reverse their courses next month.  As the year closes, Jupiter passes Saturn on December 21, 2020, in a Great Conjunction.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

 

2020, July 28: Jupiter and Saturn Lead July’s Morning Planet Parade

Jupiter and Saturn, July 28, 2020
2020, July 28: Jupiter is 0.6° to the left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr), while Saturn is 3.3° to the upper left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).

Jupiter and Saturn lead Mars and Venus during late July’s morning planet parade.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Four planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus – are strung along an arc in the morning sky.  They appear along the solar system’s plane that astronomers call the ecliptic. During the pre-sunrise hours of late July, the imaginary line stretches from the southwest skyline to the east-northeast horizon.

Bright Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southwest in front of the stars of eastern Sagittarius.  They are moving westward – retrograding – compared to the starry background.  While they rise in the east before sunset and appear low in the southeast during evening hours from Earth’s rotation, they are moving westward compared to the distant stars.  This westward movement compared to the stars is an illusion when Earth overtakes, passes, and moves away from them.

Jupiter and Saturn are 7.5° apart.  In another month, they are about another degree apart. 

In September, Jupiter and Saturn begin moving eastward again.  Jupiter inches toward Saturn and passes it in a Great Conjunction, December 21, 2020.  This is the closest conjunction of the two planets since 1623.  A Jupiter – Saturn conjunction occurs every 19.6 years.

Through a binocular check their positions each clear morning compared to the stars.  Jupiter is 0.6° to the left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr), while Saturn is 3.3° to the upper left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).  Watch Jupiter pass 50 Sgr and Saturn approach 56 Sgr.

Mars in Pisces, July 28, 2020
2020, July 28: Mars is 5.1° to the upper left of 20 Ceti (20 Cet) and 5.0° below Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc).

Farther east, Mars is that “bright star” in the southeast.  It is among the dim stars of Pisces.  On the photo above, it is moving into the starfield where it retrogrades and passes opposition (October 13, 2020).  This morning the Red Planet is 5.1° to the upper left of 20 Ceti (20 Cet) and 5.0° below Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc).  As with Jupiter and Saturn, watch Mars move eastward in the starfield through a binocular.

Venus in Taurus, July 28, 2020
2020, July 28: Venus, in the constellation Taurus, is 4.3° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of the Bull.

The brilliant Morning Star Venus is in the eastern sky.  It is moving eastward among the stars of Taurus.  This morning it is 4.3° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of the Bull.  The bright star Aldebaran, the Bull’s Eye, and two star clusters (Hyades and Pleiades) appear above the bright planet.

Here are two daily summaries about the planets during July and August.

2020, July 26: A Morning Planetary Quartet

Jupiter and Saturn. July 26, 2020
2020, July 26: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwest during morning hours, they are 7.3° apart. Jupiter is 0.7° to the left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). Saturn is 3.4° to the upper left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr). Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is visible.

Four bright morning planets – Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – span the sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – span the morning sky from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.

During the predawn hours, bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwest.  They appear among the stars of eastern Sagittarius. These giant planets are 7.3° apart.  Look at Jupiter with a binocular.  It’s possible to see some of its four bright Galilean moons, first observed in Galileo’s telescope during the 17th century.  This morning Ganymede is visible in the photo above.

Jupiter passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

Look for Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast about an hour after sunset, as they clear the local trees, houses, and buildings.  During the night, they appear to move westward.

Mars is Cetus, July 26, 2020.
2020, July 26: Mars, high in the southeast, is 4.3° to the upper left of 20 Ceti (20 Cet) and 5.3° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc).

During the morning hours, Mars is high in the southeast, among the stars of Cetus.  Tomorrow it moves into Pisces.  The stars identified on the accompanying photo show the dim star field where the Red Planet passes opposition, October 13, 2020.

Venus in east, July 26, 2020.
2020, July 26: In Taurus, brilliant Venus is morning eastward toward Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau). This morning Venus is 5.8° to the upper right of the star.

Brilliant Venus is in the eastern sky.  It is in front of the stars of Taurus the Bull.  Watch it move toward and pass Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of the Bull, on the photo, during the next several mornings.  This morning Venus is 5.8° to the upper right of the star.

Notice that Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster make a sideways “V” that represents the head of the Bull.  The Pleiades star cluster is higher in the sky, and is said to be riding on the Bull’s back.

Here are more about the planets during July and August.

2020, July 25: Morning Star Venus Moves Eastward in Taurus

Venus in Taurus, July 25, 2020.
2020, July 25: Venus in Taurus. The planet continues to move eastward among the stars. It is moving toward ζ Tau. This morning it is 6.5° to the upper right of ζ Tau and 8.6° to the lower left of Aldebaran.

Brilliant Venus shines brightly this morning among the stars of Taurus the Bull.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Brilliant Venus shines from the eastern sky this morning in front of the stars of Taurus the Bull. It appears 8.6° to the lower left of Aldebaran and 6.5° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the photo above), the Southern Horn of Taurus.  Venus continues to move eastward during the remainder of July as it nears ζ Tau.

Rosy Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster form a sideways “V” to represent the head of the Bull to the upper right of Venus  The single bright star represents the creature’s eye. Aldebaran is about 125 times brighter than the sun and 40 times our central star’s diameter. 

The Hyades is a well-studied “galactic” star cluster; that is, the cluster is part of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, like the sun and solar system, but unlike the globular clusters that revolve around a galactic halo. The Hyades has over 125 members that are heading in space toward a spot near the star Betelgeuse.

The famous Pleiades star cluster (known to school children as the “Seven Sisters”) is above Aldebaran and the Hyades. To the unaided eye, six or seven stars are visible.  Through a binocular, more than a dozen stars can be seen.  In the photo above, nearly two dozen stars are visible.  Detailed studies count over 200 stars in this cluster.

Astronomers think that stars are formed in clumps, somewhat like bunches of grapes.  The mutual gravitational pull of the stars though is too weak to keep the clusters together.  Over time, stars escape, decreasing the mutual gravitation attraction.

 

The Pleiades cluster is thought to be younger than the Hyades.  The Pleiades cluster’s bright blue stars have short astronomical lives.  The cluster is thought to be about 100 million years old while the Hyades could be six times older.

On these warm clear mornings of summer explore Taurus and its star clusters with a binocular.  Each morning, notice the location of Venus within the constellation.

 

2020, July 23: 5 Planets, Last Call

Mercury, Venus, July 23, 2020
2020, July 23: Venus and Mercury shine from the eastern sky during bright morning twilight. Mercury is nearly 24° to the lower left of Venus.

Five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible together before the morning planet parade begins to break up.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Five planets arch across the clear sky this morning.  For the next few mornings during twilight and before Jupiter sets, view five planets that span the sky from the east-northeast skyline to the southwest horizon.

Jupiter and Saturn, July 23, 2020
2020, July 23: Jupiter is 7.2° to the lower right of Saturn. Jupiter is 1.0° to the upper left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr, m = 5.6), while Saturn is 4.5° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap, m = 5.2).

Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwest among the stars of eastern Sagittarius.  They are retrograding – moving west – compared to the starry background.  This is an illusion as our planet moves away from this giant planet pair.  They continue to retrograde until September.  This morning the Jupiter – Saturn gap is 7.2°.  The planets continue to separate until their retrograde motion ends.

During the fall months, Jupiter inches up and catches the Ringed Wonder on December 21, 2020 for a Great Conjunction.  This is the closest conjunction of the two planets since 1623.

Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the southeast as the sky darkens each evening.  Use a binocular to watch them continue to move westward compared to the stars identified in the photo above.  The stars, with their astronomical names Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap on the photo), 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr) and Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr), make the background to watch the planets.  During the next month, the planet pair is lower in the southwestern sky during early morning hours and higher in the eastern sky during evening hours.

In the photo above three of Jupiter’s four largest satellites are visible.  They can be seen with a binocular, depending on their positions when they are viewed.

Mars in Cetus, July 23, 2020
2020, July 23: Mars, in the southeastern sky, moves eastward among the stars of Cetus. It is 3.1° to the upper left of 20 Ceti (20 Cet, m = 4.8). It is moving eastward toward the region of Pisces where its retrograde motion begins.

Mars is farther east, over halfway up in the southeast among the stars of the constellation Cetus.  Mars is well passed 20 Ceti (20 Cet on the photo) and heading toward a starfield in Pisces that includes Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc on the photo), 89 Piscium (89 Psc), Mu Piscium (μ Psc), Nu Piscium (ν Psc), and Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

Mars begins its retrograde motion during early September near the stars on the left side of the starfield in the photo.  Use a binocular to watch the Red Planet move toward them during the next few weeks.  The planet rises at about 11:30 p.m. local time and its easier to see in the east an hour later.

Venus and Taurus, July 23, 2020
2020, July 23: Brilliant Venus, among the stars of Taurus, is 7.3° to the lower left of Aldebaran. The Hyades star cluster and Pleiades star cluster appear nearby.

Meanwhile in the eastern sky, brilliant Venus is in Taurus, 7.3° to the lower left of Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star.  The planet continues moving eastward and away from Aldebaran.

Together, Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster make a “V” shape, sideways when it is in the eastern sky, to identify the head of the Bull.  The Pleiades star cluster, higher in the sky, is riding on the Bull’s back.

Elusive Mercury comes into view as Jupiter is low in the southwest.  It is to the lower left of Venus in the brighter glow of morning twilight.

In a few mornings, Jupiter sets before Mercury comes into full view, leaving four planets.  Look early enough in the morning to see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus.  A view later during brighter morning twilight provides a view of Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.

Here’s more about the planets during July.

 

2020, July 20: One Morning, Five Planets

Mercury and Venus, July 20, 2020
2020, July 20: Venus and Mercury shines from the eastern sky. Mercury is over 23° to the lower left of the brilliant planet.

The five bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – are strung across the plane of the solar system from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.  Simultaneously, five planets are visible.

Update:  The planets on July 23, click here.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

This morning the five bright planets appear as beads on a necklace that is stretched across the morning sky.

Mercury, July 20, 2020
2020, July 20: Without the moon this morning, Mercury shines from low in the east-northeast during morning twilight. It is over 23° to the lower left of brilliant Venus.

Without the moon, Mercury shines low in the east-northeast, to the lower left of brilliant Venus.  Mercury is in the sky for several more mornings until it disappears back into the sun’s glare.  In two mornings it reaches its greatest separation (elongation) from the sun.  It never strays far from the sun’s glare, making it a challenge to view.

Venus in Taurus, July 20, 2020.
2020, July 20: In the east, brilliant Venus shines from among the stars of Taurus, 5.1° to the lower left of the star Aldebaran. The Hyades star cluster and Pleiades star cluster are nearby.

Brilliant Venus is to the upper right of Mercury.  Before later twilight brightened the sky, Venus is visible 5.1° to the lower left of Aldebaran.  This star along with the Hyades star cluster form the face of Taurus the Bull.  The Pleiades star cluster is above the scene.

Mars in Cetus, July 20, 2020
2020, July 20: Mars shines from the stars of Cetus in the southeastern sky during early morning twilight. It is 2.7° to the upper left of 20 Ceti (20 Cet).

Meanwhile, Mars is the lone bright “star” in the southeast among the dim stars of Cetus.  This morning it is 2.7° to the upper left of 20 Ceti (20 Cet on the photo). A binocular is needed to see the starfield.

Mars is marching eastward.  It begins the illusion of retrograde motion in early September as Earth approaches and passes the planet.  Earth is between the sun and Mars on October 13, 2020.  On this date, the sun and planet are in opposite directions from Earth.  Near opposition the outer planets are closest to Earth and brightest in the sky.

Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest, July 20, 2020
2020, July 20: Saturn and brighter Jupiter appear in the southwest among the stars of Sagittarius. Jupiter is 4.0° to the lower right 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Saturn is 4.3° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

Saturn and Jupiter are farther west in eastern Sagittarius.  The planets are retrograding – moving westward compared to the background stars. With a binocular check the planets’ positions compared to the starry background.  This morning Saturn is 4.3° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap), while Jupiter is 4.0° to the lower right 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).

Jupiter was at opposition last week and Saturn is at opposition today.  Jupiter and Saturn appear to reverse their directions in September.  Then Jupiter inches toward Saturn and passes it on December 21, 2020 for a Great Conjunction.

Continue to look for the five planets for the next several days.

Here’s more about the planets during July.

 

2020, July 17: Spectacular Crescent Moon in Morning Planet Parade

The crescent moon, Venus, Aldebaran and the Pleiades, July 17, 2020.
2020, July 17: The crescent moon is in a group with Venus and Aldebaran as the Pleiades appear above the scene during early morning twilight.

This morning’s crescent moon joins Venus in the eastern sky.  Four planets arch across the morning sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Venus, the crescent moon, and Aldebaran, July 17, 2020.
2020, July 17: The crescent moon is 3.2° to the left of Venus and the brilliant planet is the same distance to the lower left of Aldebaran.

A thin crescent moon joins brilliant Venus this morning in the eastern sky.  The star Aldebaran, in Taurus the Bull, appears nearby.  The moon is 3.2° from Venus, and the sparkling planet is the same distance from Aldebaran.

Mars in Cetus, July 17, 2020.
2020, July 17: Mars, in the southeast, is 2.9° to the upper right of 20 Ceti (20 Cet).

Higher in the southeast, bright Mars shines from the dim stars of Cetus.  It continues to march eastward compared to the starry background.  This morning it is 2.9° to the upper right of 20 Ceti (20 Cet on the photo).

Earth passes between Mars and the sun on October 13.  This is known as opposition.

Jupiter and Saturn in eastern Sagittarius, july 17, 2020.
2020, July 17: Jupiter is 3.7° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr) and 1.6° to the upper left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). Saturn is 4.1° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwestern sky in front of the stars of eastern Sagittarius.  They are moving westward compared to the stars.  This illusion of backwards motion occurs when Earth passes worlds beyond our planet.

Jupiter is a few days past its opposition. Earth passes between the sun and Saturn on July 20.  Both planets continue to retrograde until September.  When they again resume their eastward motion compared to the stars, Jupiter approaches and passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

This morning, Jupiter is 3.7° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr) and 1.6° to the upper left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  Saturn is 4.1° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

Here’s more about the planets during July.

 

2020, July 14: Planet Parade, Moon, Comet

 

Comet NEOWISE, July 14, 2020
2020, July 14: Comet NEOWISE shines from the northeastern sky.

 

Four planets, Moon, and a comet parade across July’s morning sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Four bright planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus – stretch across the sky from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.

 

The waning crescent moon, July 14, 2020.
2020, July 14: The moon is in the eastern sky. It is 23.4 days past its New phase and 37% illuminated. It is a thick waning crescent phase.

Overnight Earth passed between the sun and Jupiter.  This is known as opposition.  Saturn’s opposition is July 20.  At opposition, planets are bright in the sky.  They are opposite the sun in the sky.  The rise in the east when the sun sets in the west, move across the sky all night, and set in the west at sunrise.

The moon appears between Venus and Mars in the eastern sky.

Venus in Taurus, July 14, 2020.
2020, July 14: Venus is 1.6° to the left of Aldebaran. The Pleiades star cluster appears above the pair.

Venus is moving eastward through Taurus the Bull.  Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster form a sideways “V” that makes the Bull’s head.  Venus is 1.6° from Aldebaran this morning.

In a few mornings (July 17) the moon appears with Venus and Aldebaran.  With the Pleiades in view, this will be a picturesque scene!

Mercury joins the planet parade beginning July 19, when the “Classic 9” planets are in the sky simultaneously with the moon, about 45 minutes before sunrise. 

Venus, Moon, and Mars, July 14, 2020.
2020, July 14: Venus, Moon, and Mars span nearly 62° in the eastern morning sky.

The moon is between Venus and Mars. The Venus – Mars gap is nearly 62°. 

Mars is Cetus, July 14, 2020.
2020, July 14: Mars is 1.3° to the upper left of 14 Ceti (14 Cet).

The Red Planet is marching eastward in front of the stars of Cetus.  It is at opposition on October 13, 2020.

For observers with large-aperture telescopes, Uranus, Neptune, and Classic Planet Pluto are visible as well.

Comet NEOWISE is appearing in the morning and evening sky.  This morning it is low in the northeast during early morning twilight.

Jupiter and Saturn in Sagittarius, July 13, 2020.
2020, July 14: Saturn is 6.8° to the upper left of the Jupiter. Jupiter 3.4° is to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Saturn is 3.9° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

Farther west, Jupiter and Saturn are retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.  Later in the year, after the giant planet pair reverses course, Jupiter passes closely to Saturn in a Great Conjunction, the closest since 1623.

These Jupiter – Saturn groupings occur once every 19.6 years.  This is the closest grouping since 1623, although the records are unclear whether it was observed.  The pair was close to the sun when Jupiter passed.

In the photo above at least one of Jupiter’s largest moon’s is visible.

Here’s more about the planets during July.

 

2020, July 13: Jupiter at Opposition Leads Planet Parade

Jupiter at opposition and Saturn, July 13, 2020.
Jupiter, at opposition, leads the July planet parade. See Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus before sunrise.

Jupiter, at opposition, leads the July planet parade.  Saturn is at opposition July 20, 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Bright Jupiter is at opposition.  Earth is between the sun and this giant planet.

At opposition the planet is very bright in the sky because it is closest to Earth.

Jupiter rises at sunset.  It appears in the south around 1 a.m., midnight when daylight time is not in effect.  The planet sets in the southwest at sunrise.

Saturn is 6.7° to the lower left of Jupiter.  Earth passes between the sun and Saturn on July 20.

This planetary pair is retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.  This apparent motion is an illusion as our faster moving Earth overtakes, passes between the sun and planet, and moves away from the planet.

This motion was the cosmological problem of early astronomers.  The philosophical part of the issue was whether the sun was at the center of the universe or the Earth held the central position.

With a stationary Earth at the center, several circles were employed to make the planetary models fit what was occurring in the sky.  With a central sun and a fast-moving earth, the retrograde motion was an optical illusion.

Earth’s revolution around the sun was not measured until the 19th Century.  Retrograde motion is an illusion.

Both planets retrograde until September, but as they continue to move westward compared to the starry background, the gap continues to grow.

When they reverse direction, Jupiter inches toward Saturn.  Jupiter slowly overtakes and passes the Ringed Wonder.  This Great Conjunction occurs on December 21, 2020.

This is the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn since 1623, although there is little evidence that this conjunction was observed.

Mars follows the Jupiter – Saturn pair across the horizon after midnight.  It clears the landscape by 1 a.m. and appears low in the eastern sky.  The moon rises about an hour after Mars (on July 14).

As Earth rotates, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and the moon appear farther west.

By the beginning of morning twilight, Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest and Mars is in the southeast.  The moon is to the lower left of Mars.

Venus then rises into the east-northeast sky.  It is near Aldebaran in Taurus.

As the sky brightens, the four bright planets and the moon stretch across the sky from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.

Mercury joins the planet parade beginning July 19, when the “Classic 9” planets are in the sky simultaneously with the moon, about 45 minutes before sunrise. 

For observers with large-aperture telescopes, Uranus, Neptune, and Classic Planet Pluto are visible as well.

In a few mornings (July 17) the moon appears with Venus and Aldebaran.  With the Pleiades in view, this will be a picturesque scene!

The four bright planets, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, are visible in the morning sky until about mid-August, although at an earlier hour as August progresses.

Here’s more about the planets during July.

2020, July 13: A Morning Planet Parade, Moon, Comet

Comet NEOWISE, July 13, 2020
2020, July 13: Comet NEOWISE (Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE) appears above the northeast horizon during early morning twilight.

Comet NEOWISE appears with the moon in July’s morning planet parade.

More about the comet, planets and moon on July 14, click here.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Comet NEOWISE appears in the morning sky during twilight this morning in the northeast.

The comet (formally known as Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE) is now appearing in the evening sky as well as making its mark in the morning sky.

Comets are orbiting icebergs.  They travel around the sun in elongated orbits.  When near the sun, the solar energy vaporizes the ices.  Solar wind – a stream of particles from the sun – drives the gasses and dust into space.

The intense sunlight fractures many comets into smaller pieces.  Comet NEOWISE survived its close solar passage and it is the summer surprise with the July morning planet parade that stars Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.

Mercury joins the planet parade beginning July 19, when the “Classic 9” planets are in the sky simultaneously with the moon, about 45 minutes before sunrise.

Mars in Cetus, July 13, 2020
2020, July 13: Mars is 0.8° to the upper left of 14 Ceti (14 Cet).

The thick crescent moon appears to the lower left of Mars this morning.  The image above uses a roofline to block the moon’s light so that the starry background is visible.

Mars is marching eastward in the constellation Cetus.  This region of the sky does not have many bright stars.  A binocular is helpful to watch Mars appear farther east among the stars each morning. 

This morning, Mars 0.8° is to the upper left of dim 14 Ceti (14 Cet on the photo).  Notice that it is also east of 10 Ceti (10 Cet) and to the lower left of 44 Piscium (44 Psc).

Mars continues to move eastward until early September.  Afterwards it appears to move westward – retrograde – compared to the background stars.  Earth passes between the sun and Mars on October 13, 2020.  This is known as opposition.

Jupiter and Saturn in eastern Sagittarius, July 13, 2020
2020, July 13: Jupiter is 3.3° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr). Saturn is 3.8° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).

Jupiter is at opposition tomorrow.  It rises in the eastern sky at sunrise and sets in the western sky at sunrise.

This morning, Jupiter, along with Saturn, is in the southwest.  Saturn is at opposition on July 20.

The planets are retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.7°.  Their separation widens until September when they reverse their apparent direction.  Jupiter closes in and passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

These conjunctions occur about every 19.6 years because these planets move slowly around the sun.

In the starfield this morning, Jupiter is 3.3° to the lower right of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).  Saturn is 3.8° to the lower right of Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).  Each morning compare the positions of the planets to the reference stars.

At least one of the four largest Jovian moons is visible in the image – Callisto.

Venus and Aldebaran, July 13, 2020
2020, July 13: Venus appears 1.2° to the left of Aldebaran.

The “star” of the morning planet parade is brilliant Venus.  It is visible low in the east-northeast, in front of the stars of Taurus the Bull.  The brighter star Aldebaran and dimmer stars (Hyades star cluster) seem to form a sideways “V” that makes the head of the Bull.  Aldebaran represents the bull’s eye.

This morning, the planet is 1.2° to the left of Aldebaran.

Venus, Aldebaran, Hyades, Pleiades, July 13, 2020.
2020, July 13: Venus, Aldebaran, Hyades, Pleiades appear in the early morning sky.

In a few mornings (July 17) the moon appears with Venus and Aldebaran.  With the Pleiades in view, this will be a picturesque scene!

Here’s more about the planets during July.