Tag Archives: Mars

2020, September 5: Morning Moon, Mars, Venus

Mars and Moon, September 6, 2020
2020, September 6: Mars and Moon. (Composite image)

Update for Mars and Moon, September 5/6. See more here.

Mars in Pisces, September 5, 2020
2020, September 5: Mars is 9.6° to the upper left of the lunar orb. Among the stars of Pisces, the Red Planet is 2.2° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.6° to the lower left of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

The bright gibbous moon appears near the Mars this morning as a prelude to tonight’s celestial encounter.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

The bright gibbous moon – overexposed in the image above – that is over 90% illuminated this morning appears near the planet Mars.

This evening the moon appears close to the Red Planet as they rise into the sky around 10:30 p.m.

They appear together throughout the night as the lunar orb slowly moves away from Mars.

Venus in Cancer, September 5, 2020
2020, September 5: Venus – among Cancer’s dim stars – is 9.9° to the lower right of Pollux.

Farther east, Venus sparkles among the dim stars of Cancer.  The Gemini Twins – Castor and Pollux – are to the upper left of Earth’s Twin Planet.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

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20th anniversary ISS poster from NASA

2020, September 17: Jupiter, Saturn, International Space Station

After the sky cleared today, the International Space Station made a bright pass across the mid-northern latitude states this evening near Jupiter and Saturn in the sky. The ISS was brighter than the planet Jupiter.

2020, September 4: Morning Star Venus, Mars, Orion

Mars in Pisces, September 4, 2020
2020, September 4: Mars is 2.1° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.6° to the lower left of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

Morning Star Venus, bright Mars, and the constellation Orion shine from the skies this morning.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

With the bright moon in the sky, outside the frame of the image, Mars shines brightly from the dim stars of Pisces.  The planet is slowly stepping eastward in the constellation, to the left in the photo. 

Tomorrow evening (September 5) and the following morning, the bright moon appears near Mars

On September 9, the planet seems to reverse its direction and begins to move westward compared to the stars.  This retrograde motion is an illusion as our faster moving planet approaches the Red Planet.

Mars, September 2020
Mars Begins Retrograde: During September, Mars begins its retrograde motion east of Nu Piscium (ν Psc). It reverses its direction and ends the month near Mu Piscium (μ Psc).

The chart above shows the motion of Mars compared to the stars during September. 

Earth and Mars are closest on October 6.  Earth passes between the sun and Mars on October 13. During the next month the planet continues to grow in brightness and apparent size through a telescope, although unlike what is shown in the social media memes.

Venus moves into Cancer, September 4, 2020
2020, September 4: Venus moves into Cancer to the lower right of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins.

Farther east, brilliant Morning Star Venus shines brightly from below Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins.  This morning it moves into the dimmer stars of Cancer.  In 10 days, the crescent moon joins Venus as it moves near the Beehive star cluster.

Orion Rising, September 4, 2020
2020, September 4: Orion, with its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, rise into the late-summer morning sky.

Orion rises in the southeast this morning.  Its bright stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel, mark opposite corners of the famous star pattern.  In the clear skies this morning, the Orion Nebula (M42 on the photo) stands out. (The short time exposure reveals some color that is not visible, even with a binocular.)

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

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Full moon

2020, October 31: Rare Halloween Full Moon

A rare Halloween Full Moon, 76 years in the making, is visible across most of the planet in 2020. This could be called a “Blue Halloween Moon.”

2020, September 5-6: Bright Mars, Moon

Moon and Mars, September 6, 2020
2020, September 6: In the morning sky, the moon is 2.3° to the upper left of Mars.

 

On the night of September 5/6, the gibbous moon appears to guide the bright planet Mars.

Moon and Mars, September 5, 2020
2020, September 5: The moon and Mars, (Composite of two images)

Update: Photo from September 5, 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

On the night of September 5 – September 6, the gibbous moon appears near Mars, a very bright planet in the southern sky before sunrise.  Currently, Mars is the fourth brightest “star” in the sky.  Only, the moon, Venus, and Jupiter are brighter.

As Earth approaches Mars, the Red Planet brightens – during the next six weeks – although it is not much larger in appearance to the human eye.  Even with a closest approach pending, the planet only resembles an overly bright star. While it can double in its apparent size through a telescope, the increase is imperceptible to the human eye (unlike what is shown in the social media memes.)

Mars in Pisces, September 5, 2020
2020, September 5: Mars is 9.6° to the upper left of the lunar orb. Among the stars of Pisces, the Red Planet is 2.2° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.6° to the lower left of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

On the evening of September 5 and morning of September 6, the bright gibbous moon is near the Red Planet.  Here’s what to look for on the night before and after the grouping:

  • September 5: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon is over 40° up in the southwest.  The moon is over 91% illuminated.  Mars is 9.6° to the upper left of the lunar orb.  The separation is about the distance across your fist at arm’s length.  In the evening, about three hours after sunset (10:15 p.m. CDT, in Chicago), the moon – about 86% illuminated – is to the lower right of Mars, about 0.8° away.  That’s about the distance across two fingertips at arm’s length. Find them in the east. On these evenings find bright Jupiter and Saturn – to Jupiter’s upper left – in the south-southwest sky.
Mars and Moon, September 6, 2020
2020, September 6: Mars and Moon. (Composite image)

Update: Photo from September 6, 2020.

  • September 6: One hour before sunrise, the moon is over halfway up in the southwest.  Mars is 2.3° to the lower right of the lunar orb.  Three hours after sunset in the eastern sky, bright Mars is over 11° to the upper right of the moon that is 79% illuminated.  The moon is near the eastern horizon. 
  • September 7: One hour before sunrise, the bright moon – 77% illuminated – is less than 60° in altitude in the south-southwest.  Mars is about 15° to the lower right of the moon. 

Each night, the moon is farther east of Mars and it begins to approach Venus in the east in the morning sky.  Look for the crescent moon and Venus on September 14.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

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2020, August 30: Morning Sky Ablaze

Venus and the stars during morning twilight, August 30, 2020
2020, August 30: Venus and a bright contingent of bright stars – Castor, Pollux, Procyon, Sirius, Rigel and Betelgeuse appear in the morning sky.

During morning twilight, the sky is ablaze with Venus, Mars, Sirius, and bright stars.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

The late August morning sky is on fire with Venus, Mars, and several bright stars.  In the image above, Venus appears in the eastern sky with Castor, Pollux, Procyon, Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Castor.  Now two weeks after its first appearance in the morning sky, Sirius is easy to locate in the east-southeast.

Mars in Pisces, August 30, 2020
2020, August 30: Mars continues to march eastward in Pisces. This morning the Red Planet is 1.6° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.7° below Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

The Red Planet is high in the southern sky among the dim stars of Pisces.  The planet continues to brighten as Earth approaches it.  Mars is less than 47 million miles away this morning.

Mars continues its eastward march among the stars.  On September 9, Mars seems to end its eastward direction and appears to move westward compared to the stars, in what is known as retrograde motion.  This is an illusion from our faster moving world overtaking a slower moving Mars and passing between the Red Planet and the sun, known as opposition (October 13, 2020).

Additionally, Mars orbit is not a perfect circle. A week before opposition, Earth and Mars are closest when they are about 39 million miles apart.  Even at this distance, Mars looks like an overly bright star in the sky.

In the photo above, Mars is 1.6° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.7° below Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).  East is to the left in the image, Mars continues to move eastward past ν Psc before it begins to retrograde.  When Earth and Mars are closest, the Red Planet appears near μ Psc.

Venus in Gemini, August 30
2020, August 30: Venus is is to the lower right of Pollux. The planet is 4.2° below Delta Geminorum (δ Gem) and 5.0° to the lower left of Lambda Geminorum (λ Gem).

Farther east, Venus sparkles from in front of the stars of Gemini.  It continues stepping eastward compared to the starry background.  This morning it is to the lower right of Pollux.  On the photo, the planet is 4.2° below Delta Geminorum (δ Gem) and 5.0° to the lower left of Lambda Geminorum (λ Gem).

Tomorrow morning, Venus makes a wide pass (8.6°) of Pollux.  Early next month, the planet moves into Cancer and a nice grouping with the moon and the Beehive star cluster on September 14.  It’s another camera-ready morning to see.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August and September.

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Venus and Jupiter, August 18, 2012

The Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere.

2020, September: Venus Sparkles in Eastern Morning Sky

Venus during September 2020
Venus during September: Venus moves from Gemini, through Cancer, and into Leo. Spot the brilliant planet near the Beehive cluster at mid-month.

 

Venus continues to shine as a Morning Star in the eastern sky during September.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

  • Venus and Moon, September 14, 2020
  • Venus and Moon, September 14, 2020
  • Venus and the stars during morning twilight, September 5, 2020
  • Venus moves into Cancer, September 4, 2020
  • Venus in Cancer, September 5, 2020
  • 2020, September 4: Venus, Sirius, Procyon, and Orion

Click an image to see a slideshow of Venus images for September 2020.

As the days noticeably shorten, Venus continues its spectacular appearance in the eastern morning sky.

See our feature about Venus in the morning sky.

The chart above shows the motion of the planet compared to the starry background.

On September 1, Venus rise nearly 3.75 hours before sunrise, and it is high above the skyline as morning twilight brightens the eastern sky.  By month’s end it rises nearly 3.5 hours before sunrise.  So, it remains “that bright star” in the eastern sky.

During September the planet is in eastern Gemini and it continues to work its way eastward through the zodiacal constellations.  During the month, the planet moves into Cancer with its dimmer stars.  Near month’s end it moves into Leo.

As Earth revolves around the sun, the stars rise about 4 minutes earlier each morning.  During the course of a month, they rise two hours earlier by month’s end.  This slow westward march of the constellations helps us mark the seasons in the sky.

As the stars rise earlier, Venus steps eastward each morning.  Consequently, it is nicely placed in the sky to be easily noticed.

In the sky, Venus keeps nearly a constant spot and the stars seem to move past it when observed at the same time each morning.

Early in the month, Saturn departs the sky as Venus rises, leaving Venus and Mars in the morning sky.

On the morning of September 14, the crescent moon and Venus appear near the Beehive star cluster.  While not as bright as the famous Pleiades star cluster, the Beehive appears as a fuzzy cloud.  A binocular provides a good view of the cluster.

The bright planet then continues to glide eastward toward Leo, stepping into the constellation on September 23.

Even with the planet’s brilliance, use a binocular to track it through the starfield.

In the notes that follow the “m” numbers indicate the brightness of Venus and the stars.  The smaller the number, the brighter the star or planet.  Venus has a negative number to show its brilliance. The stars with magnitude 1 are among the brightest in our sky.  As the number increases toward 4 and 5, they are among the dimmer stars visible to the unaided eye.  Some of the stars have Greek letters designating their names. When the letter of the star and its genitive name are used, a star like Pollux is also known as Beta Geminorum (β Gem) to indicate that its Beta in the constellation Gemini. Additionally, with the Greek letter, the constellation is abbreviated, Gemini (Gem), Cancer (Cnc).

Numbers are used to name stars when the Greek alphabet is exhausted, like 81 Geminorum or 20 Cancri.

Detailed daily notes for observing planets are found here. In the notes that follow, the observations are for one hour before sunrise, when Venus is about 30° up in the sky; that’s about one-third of the way from the natural horizon to overhead.

Venus, Moon, Beehive, September 14, 2020
2020, September 14: Ninety minutes before sunrise, look for the moon and Venus near the Beehive star cluster. The moon is 5.0° to the lower left of Venus.
  • September 1: One hour before sunrise brilliant Venus (m = −4.3) is less than 30° up in the east in Gemini.  It is 8.6° to the lower right of Pollux (m = 1.2).  With a binocular notice that it is below a line that connects Pollux and Kapa Geminorum (κ Gem, m = 3.6) and extends downward to Procyon (α CMi, m = 0.4).
  • September 2:  Venus (V) rises as Saturn sets.  The morning sky now has two bright planets – Venus and Mars.
  • September 3: V is 0.9° to the right of 85 Geminorum (85 Gem, m = 5.4).
  • September 4: V moves into Cancer, over 9° to the lower right of Pollux and over 11° to the upper right of Delta Cancri (δ Cnc, m = 3.9). 
  • September 7:  V is 0.9° to the upper left of Zeta Cancri (ζ Cnc, m = 5.2). Use a binocular.
  • September 10:  V is 0.5° below 20 Cancri (20 Cnc, m = 5.9).
  • September 11: V is 0.5° to the upper right of Theta Cancri (θ Cnc, m = 5.3).  Use a binocular to spot the Beehive cluster to the lower left of Venus.  The cluster appears as a patch of stars, like sparkling jewels on the velvet of the sky.
  • September 12: Through a binocular, V is 2.5° to the right of the Beehive cluster. The moon (24.3 days past the New Moon phase, 30% illuminated), nearly 50° up in the east and over 20° above V.  The lunar orb is over 10° to the upper right of Castor (α Gem, m =1.6).
  • September 13:  V passes 2.3° to the lower right of the Beehive cluster. The planet is also 1.5° to the upper right of δ Cnc. The waning crescent moon (25.3d, 20%) is over 10° above V.
  • September 14: V is 5.0° to the right of the crescent moon (26.3d, 12%) and 0.9° to the lower right of δ Cnc. With a binocular observe that the Beehive cluster is 2.7° to the upper left of V and 4.6° to the upper right of the lunar crescent.
  • September 15: V is nearly 28° up in the east.  It is 1.4° to the lower right of δ Cnc and 3.3° to the lower right of M44.  All three of these objects are nearly along a line that starts with the star cluster and ends with V.  The moon (27.2d, 6%) is about 15° up in the east.
  • September 16: V is 4.2° below the Beehive cluster, 2.3° below δ Cnc, and 1.8° to the upper left of Omicron Cancri (ο Cnc, m =5.2).
  • September 21: V is 0.5° to the upper left of Pi Cancri (π Cnc, m = 5.3).
  • September 23: V moves into Leo, 11.0° to the upper right of Regulus (α Leo, m = 1.3).
  • September 25: V passes 3.1° to the upper left of Xi Leonis (ξ Leo, m = 5.0).
  • September 28: V passes 3.8° to the upper left of Omicron Leonis (ο Leo, m = 3.5).
  • September 30: V ends the month 0.4° above Nu Leonis (ν Leo, m = 5.2) and 2.9° to the upper right of Regulus.

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2020, August 28-29: Jupiter, Saturn, Moon in Evening Sky

The moon and Mars, February 18, 2020
2020, February 18: The moon is near Mars before sunrise.

The bright moon appears near Jupiter and Saturn on the evenings of August 28 and August 29.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Four bright planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus – are visible between sunset and sunrise.

The planets appear as overly bright stars in the sky.

Bright Jupiter appears in the southeastern sky after sunset.  Dimmer Saturn is to the Giant Planet’s lower left.

Of all the celestial objects, the moon moves fastest eastward compared to the stars.  It travels through one orbit in less than 30 days as it nearly displays all its phases.

Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, August 28, 2020
August 28: In the evening sky, Jupiter is 2.2° above the moon. Saturn, 8.3° to the left of Jupiter, is 8.8° to the upper left of the moon.

On the evening of August 28, the lunar orb, distinctly a gibbous shape (83% illuminated), is low in the south-southeast.  Bright Jupiter is 2.2° above the moon and Saturn is 8.3° to the left of Jupiter.

Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, August 29, 2020
August 29: One hour after sunset, Saturn is 5.7° to the upper right of the moon and 8.3° to the left of Jupiter that is over 13° to the upper right of the gibbous moon.

On the next evening (August 29), the moon is farther eastward and with a larger phase (90% illuminated).  Saturn is 5.7° to the upper right of the gibbous shape and 8.3° to the left of Jupiter.  The Giant Planet is over 13° to the upper right of the moon. 

Now over a month after our planet passed between Jupiter and Saturn (opposition), these planets are easily visible in the evening sky.

When held steadily, a binocular can reveal any number of Jupiter’s four largest moons.   A small telescope can show stripes in Jupiter’s clouds.  A careful inspection of Saturn with a small telescope reveals its ring and perhaps a cloud band or two in its atmosphere.

Because of the planets’ stellar appearance, the earliest astronomers recognized these special stars had the power of movement, compared to the multitude of “fixed” stars in the constellations.

Normally, the planets appear to move eastward compared to the starry background. As Earth approaches them in its celestial orbit; moves between them and the sun; and recedes from the worlds, the planets appear to move backwards or retrograde compared to the starry background.

Jupiter and Saturn are retrograding in front of the stars of Sagittarius.  Jupiter’s eastward direction resumes on September 12, while Saturn returns to its eastward direction on September 28.

Jupiter then approaches and passes Saturn on December 21, 2020, in a once-in-a generation Great Conjunction.  Of the large count of Great Conjunctions during the centuries, this is the closest conjunction since the grouping in 1623.

Mars rises later in the evening and it is well up in the east as midnight approaches.  At this time, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwestern sky. 

Mars begins its retrograde direction on September 9.  Earth passes between the Red Planet and the sun on October 13, 2020.  Near opposition, Mars outshines everything in the night sky except for Venus and the Moon.

Venus rises before morning twilight begins and it is “that bright star” in the east before sunrise. Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the sky together shortly after Venus rises, but the Ringed Wonder shortly disappears below the horizon.

Saturn is no longer visible in the sky with Venus after early September as Venus moves eastward more rapidly than Saturn, that is still retrograding at that time.

Then Venus and Mars are in the morning sky together until November when Mars sets as Venus rises.

Jupiter and Saturn, August 21, 2020
2020, August 21: Jupiter is 2.4° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 2.2° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). On for the next few weeks, watch Jupiter move closer to π Sgr and farther from 50 Sgr.

The photo above shows Jupiter and Saturn on the evening of August 21, 2020.

Look at the starfield around Jupiter and Saturn with a binocular.  Jupiter is to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr on the photo) and to the lower right of dimmer 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  Jupiter continues to move to the right (west) compared to the stars, moving closer to π Sgr and a little farther from 50 Sgr.

Meanwhile, Saturn is moving westward below 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).  By the end of September Saturn is nearly below the star.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August and September.

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2020: August 22: Jupiter, Saturn, Bright Evening Planets

Jupiter and Saturn, August 21, 2020
2020, August 21: Jupiter is 2.4° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 2.2° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). On for the next few weeks, watch Jupiter move closer to π Sgr and farther from 50 Sgr.

Jupiter and Saturn shine brightly in the southern skies before midnight.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Bright Jupiter and Saturn shine from the southern skies before midnight.  They appear low in the southeast as the sky darkens after sunset.

The brightest planets appear as overly bright stars in our sky.  They rise in the east and set in the west each day along with the other stars, sun, and moon.

As the planets revolve around the sun, they move slightly eastward as compared to the starry background.

There are times when our faster moving planet approaches, passes, and moves away from the planets outside Earth’s orbit.  These outer planets seem to move westward compared to the background of stars.  This retrograde motion is an illusion. 

The planets’ retrograde motions are displayed before and after the outer planets are at opposition, when Earth is between the sun and the planet. At this time, the planets are near their closest points to Earth.  The sun and planets are in opposite directions in the sky. The distant worlds shine brightly in our sky all night.

Jupiter was at opposition on July 13 and Saturn followed a week later.  Mars is approaching its opposition on October 13, 2020.  It is closest to Earth a week earlier.

Jupiter and Saturn are retrograding.  Jupiter’s retrograde ends September 12 and Saturn, September 28.  Mars begins to retrograde September 9.  It is the bright star high in the south before sunrise.  (Venus is “that brilliant star in the east” as the morning twilight brightens.)

Watch Jupiter and Saturn continue to retrograde.  On the image above, Jupiter is 2.4° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 2.2° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). For the next few weeks, watch Jupiter move closer to π Sgr and farther from 50 Sgr.

Saturn is 2.0° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).  Watch it move beneath the star before its retrograde ends at the end of September.

Look for Venus and Mars in the morning before sunrise.

Over a week after its first appearance (heliacal rising) in the morning sky, Sirius, the night’s brightest star, shines from the east-southeast nearly 45 minutes before sunrise.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

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2020, August 21: Mars Gleams in Morning Sky

Astronomy
This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, which it’s been investigating for the past several months. Poking up just behind Curiosity’s mast is Mount Sharp, photobombing the robot’s selfie. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Bright Mars shines from the southern sky before sunrise.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Mars is the bright “star” in the southern sky before sunrise.  It complements the brilliant Venus that shines in the east.  Mars has been part morning planet parade that has included Saturn and Jupiter.

Mars is approaching its opposition (October 13) and its closest approach to Earth (October 6). 

At opposition, the Red Planet rises in the east as the sun sets in the west.  The planet is in the southern sky around midnight, and it sets in the west as the sun rises in the east.  The sun and Mars are in opposite directions in the sky.

In history, astronomers have been attracted to the nearly biennial Martian opposition.  At these times the planet presents itself for excellent telescopic inspection.  The planet’s moons were first observed during the opposition of 1877.  At the same opposition Giovanni Schiaparelli sketched Martian features, including “canali.”   Robot spacecraft are launched toward Mars near opposition because the planets are close together, travel times are relatively short, and minimal rocket fuel is needed.  NASA’s Perseverance rover was launched July 30.  The craft’s planned arrival is mid-February 2021.

Because the Martian planetary orbit is not a perfect circle, the planet is closest to Earth a week before its opposition, shining brightly all night.  Currently, the planet rises at about 10 p.m. and is high enough to be easily seen about an hour later.

Early in September, Mars begins to retrograde – move westward compared to the starry background.  This is an illusion as our faster moving Earth catches and passes Mars and the other planets.  Every object in the solar system – except the sun – appears to retrograde from the combined orbital patterns of Earth and the other bodies.

Mars in Pisces, August 21, 2020
2020, August 21: The Red Planet is 0.5° to the upper right of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.3° to the left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc).

Mars is currently moving eastward compared to the dim stars of Pisces.  It is 0.5° to the upper right of Nu Piscium (ν Psc on the photo) and 2.3° to the left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc).

As an aside, the separation between Mars and ν Psc is about the diameter of the full moon.  If the moon were in the sky this morning, it could appear between the planet and the star, as seen in the sky.

This evening, locate Jupiter and Saturn in the southeastern sky after sunset.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

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2020, August 14: Venus, Mars Morning Planets

Morning Planets Venus and Mars shine brightly in the sky before sunrise.  Venus is low in the east, while Mars is in the southern sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Venus and Mars gleam in the morning sky before sunrise.  Venus is in the eastern sky and Mars is high about the southern horizon.

Venus in Gemini, August 14, 2020
2020, August 14: Venus is 2.5° to the lower right of Mu Geminorum (μ Gem ), 4.6° above Gamma Geminorum (γ Gem), and 0.7° to the upper right of Nu Geminorum (ν Gem).

Venus is now in Gemini, moving through the constellation for the remainder of August.  In the starfield, it is 2.5° to the lower right of Mu Geminorum (μ Gem on the photo), 4.6° above Gamma Geminorum (γ Gem), and 0.7° to the upper right of Nu Geminorum (ν Gem). The crescent moon (24.7d, 24%) is over 13° above Venus. (See this article about this morning’s scene with the moon and Venus.)

Mars is high in the southern sky among dim stars in Pisces. During the next several weeks, Mars is near the three stars marked in the photograph above. 

Mars in Pisces, August 15, 2020
2020, August 14: Mars is 1.0° to the lower left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc) and 2.4° to the right of Nu Piscium (ν Psc).

This morning the Red Planet is 1.0° to the lower left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc) and 2.4° to the right of Nu Piscium (ν Psc). 

Mars continues to March eastward in Pisces until next month when it reverses its apparent direction in the sky. Watch it move away from μ Psc and pass ν Psc.  On October 6, Mars is closest to Earth during this Martian appearance in the morning sky. At that time, it is near μ Psc again.  A week later, Mars is to the right of the star.  On that morning, Mars and the sun are in opposite directions in our sky.

This evening, locate Jupiter and Saturn in the southeastern sky after sunset.

Tomorrow morning, Venus and the crescent moon make a beautiful.  Get your camera ready!

The first sightings of Sirius by the unaided eye occur during the next few mornings about 45 minutes before sunrise.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

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2020, August 12: Mars, A Planetary Dance

Mars begins its planetary dance as it nears its closest approach to Earth and its opposition with the sun.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Bright Mars shines from the south-southeastern sky during the early morning hours.  It is moving eastward in a dim starfield of Pisces.

Within a month, Mars begins to retrograde. This is an illusion as our planet approaches and passes the Red Planet and all other planets, minor planets, and comets that are farther away from the sun than our home planet.

As Earth approaches Mars, the Red Planet becomes brighter, but not much larger in appearance to the human eye.  While it can double in its apparent size through a telescope, the increase is imperceptible to the human eye (unlike what is shown in the social media memes.)

Mars rises in the east before 11 p.m. and shines high in the southern sky before sunrise.  As it rises in the evening, Jupiter and Saturn are in the south.

Four planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus – are visible around 3 a.m., shortly after Venus rises, but clear horizons are necessary to see the planetary quartet together.  And the window to see all four in the morning sky is closed on August 25.

The charts in this article show the entire retrograde path of Mars along with the view of the two planets as they revolve around the sun.

On the photo above, Mars is 3.1° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc) and 1.1° below Mu Piscium (μ Psc).  It is moving eastward in a path that is taking it toward and above, Nu Piscium (ν Psc).

Mars seems to stop moving forward and begins to retrograde on September 9, below Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).  The planet then moves westward, passing ν Psc again. Earth and Mars are closest on October 6, 2020, when the Red Planet appears near μ Psc.

Earth passes between the sun and Mars on October 13, This is known as opposition.  The planet rises in the east as the sun sets in the west.  As Earth rotates, the planet appears farther west during the night, in the south around midnight, and sets in the west at sunrise.

At opposition, Mars is a few degrees to the right of μ Psc.

Mars continues to retrograde until November 13, after it passes below 80 Piscium (80 Psc). It does not move as far west as Delta Piscium (δ Psc).  As it moves eastward against the starry background, it passes below Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc) and then Pi Piscium (π Psc), as the year ends.

Use a binocular to spot the dim stars in the near Mars and watch its planetary dance with the stars.

Venus appears in the eastern morning sky to the lower left of the Red Planet.

The first sightings of Sirius by the unaided eye occur this week about 45 minutes before sunrise.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

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