Tag: Mars

2020, January 21: Mars, Moon, and Antares

Mars, Moon and Anatres January 21, 2020

During a cold, clear morning in the Chicago area, the planet Mars is about 5 degrees to the upper left of the star Antares, the Red Planet’s rival.  The star is about the same color and brightness as Mars when the planet passes by about every 2 years.

This morning the old moon (overexposed in the image above) appears to the lower left of the Mars-Antares pair.  Notice that the night portion of the moon is gently illuminated by the sunlight reflected from our planet.

See more about where to locate Mars.

2020: The Evening Sky

2020 Setting Sky in west

This chart shows the summary of the setting of the naked-eye planets, moon, and bright stars near the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system, for 2020. The chart shows the setting of these celestial bodies compared to sunset for time intervals up to five hours after the sun’s disappearance. The three phases of twilight are displayed as well. On this chart, activity occurs in the western sky, except for the rising curves (circles) of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. When they rise in the east at sunset, they are at opposition.

As 2020 opens, Venus is the bright Evening Star, appearing in the southwest. Mercury makes its best evening appearance, setting at the end of evening twilight during early February. Mercury’s June elongation is larger, but it sets several minutes before the end of twilight, making it difficult to observe in the brighter sky. After Venus moves past the Pleiades and Aldebaran, it moves toward Elnath (β Tauri), and then plunges toward its inferior conjunction. Jupiter and Saturn pass opposition during July. After Venus disappears from the evening sky, the slow procession of bright stars – Pollux, Regulus, Spica, and Antares – disappears into evening twilight. Jupiter and Saturn appear on the setting chart in late October, just after Mars reaches opposition. The moon has two interesting appearances with the planetary duo on November 19, 2020 and just days before the Jupiter- Saturn Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

The chart is calculated from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory, for Chicago, Illinois.

Key to symbols: White square, conjunction; yellow triangle, greatest elongation (GE); yellow diamond, greatest brightness (GB).

 

2020: The Morning Sky

2020 Rising Chart

This chart shows the summary of the rising of the naked-eye planets, moon, and bright stars near the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system, for 2020. The chart shows the rising of these celestial bodies compared to sunrise for time intervals up to five hours before the sun’s appearance. The three phases of twilight are displayed as well. On this chart, activity occurs in the eastern sky, except for the setting curves (circles) of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. When they set in the west at sunrise, they are at opposition.

Early in the year, the morning sky offers the three Bright Outer Planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – in the eastern predawn sky. As Mars moves eastward it passes Antares, Jupiter and Saturn. On several mornings, the moon passes the planetary trio. The highlight occurs on the morning of February 18 as the moon occults Mars as sunrise approaches in the Central U.S. Venus enters the morning sky at mid-year. The appearance of a lunar crescent with the brilliant planet is a beautiful sight. The moon appears with Mercury as the planet enters the morning sky in late July. On the morning of July 19, the moon and the five naked eye planets are in the sky. As the moon moves toward its evening appearance, Mercury appears higher in the sky, making it a little easier to see. Venus reaches its period of greatest brightness; the mid-brightness date is marked by the yellow diamond. Venus moves past Aldebaran, Pollux, Regulus, and Spica as it moves towards its superior conjunction in early 2021. Mercury’s best morning appearance occurs during November. While this is its smallest morning elongation, the angle of the ecliptic places it higher in the sky.

The chart is calculated from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory, for Chicago, Illinois.

Key to symbols: White square, conjunction; yellow triangle, greatest elongation (GE); yellow diamond, greatest brightness (GB).

2019, December 21-22: Venus, A Solstice Evening Walk, and Mars in Morning Sky

Solstice evening brought a clear, cobalt-stained sky after a biting, cloudy beginning of the day.  Brilliant Venus appeared in the southwest among the trees.

Later in the evening, a walk under a clear, dark firmament showed the magnificence of an early winter sky.  Majestic Sirius twinkled wildly above the horizon.  Reddish Betelgeuse – dimmer than usual – and sapphire-blue Rigel stood regally above the night sky’s brightest star.  Reliable Procyon appeared with more height than the grandest star.

Higher above Betelgeuse, ruddy Aldebaran overlooked the scene with the Bull’s horns pointed toward Auriga and Capella.  Nearby, the Gemini Twins seemed alone watching Sirius’ great gleam.

The pack of Pleiades appeared too high for convenient view, although they seemed to be pulling this bright Winter Congregation westward.

The Great Square spread across the western sky with a strand of Andromeda’s stars pointing toward Perseus and Cassiopeia.  The Great Spiral, though, seemed lost in the creeping glow of a nearby city.  Deneb, that grand star of the Swan and Summer, lingered in the northwest.

The Grand Dipper climbed into the northeast, with the magic Pointers leading us to the star that never moves, Polaris.  Its position showed us, though, that the road where we walked was not due north or straight as we first perceived.  That dipper was using its muscle to help us see that Leo’s rising was near.

Before retracing our steps to retire for the evening, the glow of Orion’s stellar incubators blazed forth to our dark-adapted eyes.

Younger voices leaned in to hear the stories of the stars and inquire about the great celestial mysteries.

Next morning clear skies prevailed again.  As the new day grew in the southeast, the crescent moon stood above the pincers of the ancient scorpion, with Mars not far away.  The gleam of the Red Planet was not what many expected.  It’s not the fiery orb of science fiction.  Rather, it showed as a somewhat bright reddish star, not as bright as we might expect when it is near our home world.

Now Leo was in the sky, tilting westward.  Only the arc of Procyon, the Gemini Twins, and the Goat Star remained in the western sky from last night’s awe-inspiring display.  Spica and Arcturus sparsely marked the morning glory, unlike that celestial opera we saw last night.

Vega, now, appeared higher in the northeast with Deneb lower near the horizon, this morning’s position much different from last night.

The sky soon filled with sunlight. Our central star seems to always win over our dimmer and more distant celestial suns.  Until the next time when there’s a walk under the dark star-filled sky in that special place where the road does not run true north to south.

 

 

 

 

2019, December: Moon, Venus, and Mars

During late December, the moon appears near brilliant Venus in the evening sky and Mars in the morning sky.  Here are the highlights:

December 22: One hour before sunrise, Mars, 18° in altitude in the southeast, is over 8° to the lower left of the waning crescent moon that is 25.9 days old and 16% illuminated. The moon is above a line that connects Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, the pincers of the Scorpion – on ancient star maps. The lunar crescent is 3.5° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi.

December 23: One hour before sunrise, Mars, over 18° up in the southeast, is 6° to the upper right of the crescent moon. The old moon is 26.9 days old and only 8% illuminated.

December 28: Nearly a week later than its appearance with Mars, the moon returns to the evening sky in the west.  Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus is 17° in altitude in the southwest. The moon is 2.4° below the planet. The moon is 2.8 days old and 8% illuminated.

2020, January: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in the Morning, In Advance of the Great Conjunction

During January 2020, Mars is joined by Jupiter in the morning. Saturn is at its solar conjunction and invisible to us because of the sun’s glare.

Click here for our article about the 2020 Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter and Saturn are in the same region of the sky. Jupiter is among the brightest “stars” in the night sky while Saturn is dimmer.  Mars varies in its brightness.  When near Earth later this year, it outshines Jupiter, but during January it is dimmer in the eastern sky, and easily overlooked.

Jupiter makes its first morning appearance late in the month, joining Mars as morning planets. Saturn passes its solar conjunction near mid-month and slowly crawls into the morning sky.

  • January 5: Mars is less than one-third of the way up in the sky about one hour before sunrise.  The planet is not very bright compared to our expectations.  It is near the stars of Scorpius.  This morning it is to the upper right of the star Graffias.  Compare Mars’ brightness and color to Antares, sometimes known as the “Rival of Mars.”  During the next several mornings, watch Mars move past Graffias and far above Antares.
  • January 7: Jupiter is beginning to move into the morning sky, but it rises only about 30 minutes before sunrise.  Look for it later in the month.
  • January 13: Saturn is at its solar conjunction.  It is hidden in the sun’s glare.  We won’t see it for several weeks.

  • January 20: This morning, the old moon is above Mars. Notice how far Mars has moved during the past several mornings.  During bright twilight, about 30 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is just above the southeast horizon.  You’ll need a binocular to see it, as well as the crescent moon and Mars.
  • January 22: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is about 4° up in the southeast. The crescent moon (27.2d, 6%) is 7° to the upper right of Jupiter.
  • January 24: Saturn rises during bright twilight and its very difficult to see.

  • January 28: About 45 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is low in the southeast.  Use a binocular to locate Mars with Antares to its right.

Next Month, Saturn becomes visible as Jupiter and Saturn head toward their once-in-a-generation Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

2019: November 21-30: Venus-Jupiter Conjunction, Venus and the Moon & Moon, Mars and Mercury

Morning Sky

The moon passes two bright planets at the end of November.  Start watching on November 21 as the moon approaches them.  Notice each morning that the moon is lower in the sky and its crescent is thinner as it approaches its New Moon phase.

  • November 21: An hour before sunrise, the thinning moon, 32% illuminated, is 50° up in the southeast, is nearly 8° to the lower right of Denebola, the Tail of Leo. Mars is below the moon, over 13° up in the east-southeast. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is nearly 7° up in the east-southeast.

  • November 22: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 21% illuminated, is about 40° up in the southeast, 5.5° above the star. At the same time, Mars is below the moon, about 13° up in the east-southeast. Mercury is over 5° up in the east-southeast, about 10° to the lower left of Mars.

  • November 23: One hour before sunrise, the moon, 12% illuminated, is nearly 8° to the upper left of Spica. Mercury is over 6° up in the east, over 9° to the lower left of Mars.

  • November 24: One hour before sunrise, the thin crescent moon, only 6% illuminated, is 3.7° to the upper left of Mars, 15° up in the east-southeast. Mars is about midway between Spica and Mercury; Mercury – Mars, 9.5°; Mars – Spica, 9.7°. Tomorrow morning, at the closest approach, Mercury and Mars have about the same separation.

Evening Sky

Venus passes Jupiter on November 24, A few evening evenings later the crescent moon passes Venus for its closest approach during this appearance of Venus.

  • November 24: This evening is the Venus – Jupiter conjunction! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter . The next Venus – Jupiter conjunction is February 11, 2021 when the planets are less than 0.5° apart, but this Epoch (close) Conjunction occurs during bright morning twilight. On April 30, 2022, another morning Epoch Conjunction brings the planets within 29’ of each other.

  • November 28:  In the evening, at mid-twilight (about 45 minutes after sunset), Venus (−3.9) and the moon, 6% illuminated) have a classic appearance, with Venus 1.9° to the lower right of the moon. This is the smallest separation between the moon and Venus during this apparition of the planet. Next month, the Moon – Venus gap is 2.4° and widens each month thereafter during this appearance. Venus and the moon appear in the viewfinder of a camera with a 300 mm focal length lens. A longer exposure reveals Earthshine on the moon. At this time, Venus is about 7° up in the southwest and 4.7° to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon is 5.8° to the upper left of Jupiter.

Day-By-Day Description

This text was first published in the TCAA Observer.

  • November 21: An hour before sunrise, the moon (24.3d, 32%), 50° up in the southeast, is nearly 8° to the lower right of Denebola (β Leo, m =2.1). Mars is below the moon, over 13° up in the east-southeast. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury (m = 0.1) is nearly 7° up in the east-southeast. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus, over 8° up in the southwest, is8° to the lower right of Jupiter.
  • November 22: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (25.3d, 21%) is about 40° up in the southeast, 5.5° above Gamma Virginis (γ Vir, m = 3.4). At the same time, Mars is below the moon, about 13° up in the east-southeast. Mercury (m = − 0.1) is over 5° up in the east-southeast, about 10° to the lower left of Mars. Thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is 2.1°. Venus is over 8° up in the southwest.
  • November 23: The moon is at perigee at 1:41 a.m. CST, 227,867 miles away. One hour before sunrise, the moon (26.3d, 12%) is nearly 8° to the upper left of Spica. Mercury (m = −0.2) is over 6° up in the east, over 9° to the lower left of Mars. Today Venus moves into Sagittarius. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 9° up in the southwest, is 1.5° to the lower left of Jupiter.
  • November 24: One hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (27.3d, 6%) is 3.7° to the upper left of Mars, 15° up in the east-southeast. Mars is about midway between Spica and Mercury (m = −0.4); Mercury – Mars, 9.5°; Mars – Spica, 9.7°. Tomorrow morning, at the closest approach, Mercury and Mars have about the same separation, although the gap is neither a conjunction nor a quasi-conjunction. At a quasi-conjunction, the planets are within 5°. At a conjunction, they must pass each other in either Right Ascension or ecliptic longitude. Today is the Venus – Jupiter conjunction! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter (m = −1.8). The next Venus – Jupiter conjunction is February 11, 2021 when the planets are less than 0.5° apart, but this Epoch (close) Conjunction occurs during bright morning twilight. On April 30, 2022, another morning Epoch Conjunction brings the planets within 29’ of each other. Tonight, Venus sets at its southern-most azimuth, 236°. It sets here until December 1. The planet is nearly 1.5° below the ecliptic. Jupiter sets at Astronomical Twilight (sun’s altitude, −18°), 98 minutes after sunset.
  • November 25: One hour before sunrise, Mars (m = 1.7) is 15° up in the southeast, 9.5° to the upper right of bright Mercury (m = −0.3), 7° in altitude. The thin crescent moon (28.3d, 2%) is 5.5° to the lower left of Mercury. You’ll need a clear horizon to see the moon. It’s only 3° in altitude. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, over 7° up in the southwest, is 2.0° to the left of Jupiter. Fifteen minutes later, Saturn is 17° up in the southwest, 19° to the upper left of Jupiter.
  • November 26: One hour before sunrise, Mars, nearly 15° up in the east-southeast, is nearly 10° to the upper right of Mercury (m = −0.5). The moon is at its New phase at 9:06 a.m. CST. As evening twilight progresses, attempt to locate Venus 0.6° to the lower left of the Lagoon Nebula (M8, NGC 6530). This is certainly a stretch with the nebula low in the sky and during latter twilight. Venus is 5° up in the southwest, 1 hour after sunset. It is 2.8° to the upper left of Jupiter. This evening Venus sets at the end of twilight when the sun is 18° below the horizon. Venus sets after the end of evening twilight until May 19, 2020.
  • November 27: One hour before sunrise, Mercury, over 7° up in the east-southeast, is 2.1° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi (α Lib, m = 2.8). Use a binocular. Watch Mercury pass the star and move away from it during the next few mornings. At the same time, Mars is nearly 10° to the upper right of Mercury. 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. The planets are 3.7° apart.
  • November 28: Mercury reaches its greatest morning elongation (20.1°) at 4:27 a.m. CST. One hour before sunrise, Mercury (m = −0.6), about 7° up in the east-southeast, is 2.1° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi. This morning’s distance is slightly larger than yesterday’s separation, when fractions of a degree are considered. Mars is over 10° to the upper right of Mercury. In the evening, at mid-twilight (about 45 minutes after sunset), Venus (−3.9) and the moon (2.3d, 6.3%) have a classic appearance, with Venus 1.9° to the lower right of the moon. This is the smallest separation between the moon and Venus during this apparition of the planet. Next month, the Moon – Venus gap is 2.4° and widens each month thereafter during this appearance. Venus and the moon appear in the viewfinder of a camera with a 300 mm focal length lens. A longer exposure reveals Earthshine on the moon. At this time, Venus is about 7° up in the southwest and 4.7° to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon is 5.8° to the upper left of Jupiter.
  • November 29: One hour before sunrise, Mercury, over 6° up in the east-southeast, is 2.6° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi. Mars is over 10° to Mercury’s upper right. Venus is at its most southerly declination, −24.8°. One hour after sunset, this brilliant planet is over 6° up in the southwest and over 5° to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon (3.3d, 12%) is 14° up in the southwest, 1.7° to the lower left of Saturn.
  • November 30: One hour before sunrise, Mars, 15° in altitude in the southeast, is 0.2° to the lower left of Lambda Virginis (λ Vir, m = 2.8). Mercury is nearly 11° to Mars’ lower left. The speedy planet is 3.6° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi. In the evening, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, and the crescent moon span over 31°. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus is over 8° up in the southwest. Venus passes 0.8° to the upper right of Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr, m = 2.8), the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. Through a telescope, Venus is 11.6” in diameter and 89% illuminated. Jupiter is nearly 7° to the lower right of Venus. Jupiter continues its eastward crawl toward Saturn, over 18° to Jupiter’s upper left. The crescent moon (4.3d, 20%), 22° up in the southwest, is over 13° to the upper left of Saturn.