Tag Archives: Mars

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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The moon and Mars appear together for the second time during the month on October 29, 2020.

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2020, October: Look For Bright Mars

During October 2020, Mars appears as a very bright star in the eastern evening sky and western morning sky. Mars is closest to Earth on October 6, and at opposition a week later. The moon passes the planet twice, October 3 and October 29.

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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.

Recent Articles

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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2020, August 11: Last Call, Four Morning Planets

 

2020, August: Last call for four morning planets.
2020, August 11: The four bright planets span the morning sky from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline until August 25 when Jupiter sets as Venus rises. The moon is between Mars and Venus until August 15.

 

Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are making their final appearance together during 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

For the next several mornings, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the sky together, spanning the celestial vault from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.  Locate a clear spot to view Venus and Jupiter simultaneously.

The chart above shows the sky at three hours before sunrise. The planets appear as overly bright stars.  Brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast.  Mars is high in the southeast.  Bright Jupiter is low in the southwest, with Saturn to its upper left.   The moon appears in the with the planetary quartet until August 15.

Venus continues to step eastward in the stars of Orion until August 13 when it moves into the constellation Gemini.  Jupiter, at the western extreme of this morning planet parade, is retrograding in eastern Sagittarius.

The Venus – Jupiter gap continues to widen.  On August 25, the two planets are in opposite directions for us.  Jupiter sets as Venus rises, leaving three planets in the morning sky.  Saturn disappears below the southwestern horizon early next month, leaving Mars and Venus in the morning sky.

Venus in Orion, August 10, 2020
2020, August 10: Venus is 1.3° to the lower left of χ2 Ori and 2.8° to the lower right of Eta Geminorum (η Gem).

Venus and the crescent moon make a beautiful grouping on August 15.  Get your camera ready!

Mars in Pisces, August 9, 2020
2020, August 10: The moon is 12° to the left of Mars. The Red Planet is 2.4° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc) and 1.6° to the lower right of Mu Piscium (μ Psc.)

Mars continues to march eastward in Pisces.  It is nearing a point where it appears to begin to retrograde.  The photo above shows the starfield where it appears for the next several weeks.  Mars appears to pass Mu Piscium (μ Psc on the photo) and move toward Nu Piscium (ν Psc).  Use a binocular to track Mars in the starfield.

The four planets are in the sky together for a short spell during early August 2021 as Mars disappears toward its solar conjunction in the west and Jupiter enters the evening sky, with Saturn and Venus between the two other planets.

Meanwhile, this year, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot in the southeast after sunset.  After the giant planet pair ends its retrograde next month, Jupiter approaches and passes Saturn on December 21, 2020 in a Great Conjunction, the closest since 1623.

On the morning of August 12, view the annual Perseid meteor shower.  While a brighter moon outshines the dimmer meteors, five or six meteors are visible each hour on the prime morning.

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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2020, August 9: Venus in Orion, Mars and Moon

Brilliant Venus and Mars shine in the morning sky.  Venus is in Orion and the gibbous moon appears near Mars.

Venus in Orion, August 8, 2020
2020, August 8: Brilliant Venus is 0.5° to the upper right of Chi2 Orionis (χ2 Ori).

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

This morning, Venus reaches its earliest rising time (2:25 a.m. CDT, Chicago, Illinois).  It rises at this time through August 17.  This morning it is in the club area of Orion.  The brilliant planet is 0.5° below Chi2 Orionis (χ2 Ori on the photo).  With a binocular, watch it move farther from the star, toward the lower left in the photo.

This time is short to see four planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus, along with the moon – until next year.  An early observation, about 30 minutes after Venus rises, is needed too see them spread across the sky from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest skyline.

On August 15, catch the crescent moon with Venus. 

Mars and the moon in Pisces, August 9, 2020
2020, August 9: Mars is 1.2° to the upper left of the gibbous moon.

Mars and the moon are together this morning in the constellation Pisces.  The lunar orb is 1.2° to the lower left of the Red Planet.  Without a telescope, the bright planets resemble overly bright stars.  Through a telescope, the planets’ details are observed.

Mars is marching eastward.  In about a month, Mars reverses its direction and starts to retrograde, an illusion caused by our faster moving world overtaking the slower moving Mars.

On the morning of August 12, view the annual Perseid meteor shower.  While a brighter moon outshines the dimmer meteors, five or six meteors are visible each hour on the prime morning.

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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2020, August 5: Brilliant Venus Tours Orion, Mars in Pisces

Venus in Orion, August 5, 2020
2020, August 5: Venus is 1.1° to the upper right of the star Chi1 Orionis (χ1 Ori) and 3.3° below Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of Taurus.

Venus and Mars shine from the morning sky before sunrise. Venus moves into Orion, while Mars marches eastward in Pisces.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

This morning – over 90 minutes before sunrise – brilliant Venus is on its first day of eight days touring the northern reaches of Orion, in the Hunter’s club.  This morning Venus is 1.1° to the upper right of the star Chi1 Orionis (χ1 Ori on the photo) and 3.3° below Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), the Southern Horn of Taurus.  With a binocular watch Venus pass χ1 Ori and move toward Chi2 Orionis (χ2 Ori).

Through a telescope the planet’s is a thick morning crescent phase that is slightly less than half full.

Mars in Pisces, August 5, 2020
2020, August 5: Mars is 0.5° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc) and 3.4° to the lower right of Mu Piscium (μ Psc).

Farther westward, Mars is high in the south-southeast, marching through the dim stars of Pisces.  This morning it is 0.5° to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc) and 3.4° to the lower right of Mu Piscium (μ Psc).

The bright moon appears farther west in this morning sky.  The moon appears with Mars on the evening of August 8 and morning of August 9.

Earth passes between Mars and the sun on October 13, 2020.

At this hour Jupiter and Saturn are below the horizon in the southwest.  In the hours following sunset, look for them in the southern sky.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

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2020, August 4: Jupiter, Saturn Bright Evening Stars

 

Jupiter and Saturn, August 4, 2020
2020, August 4: About 70 minutes after sunset, Jupiter is 0.8° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr) and 3.6° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr). Meanwhile, Saturn is 2.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).

Look for bright Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast during the hours following sunset.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky during the hours following sunset. They appear as overly bright stars.  Jupiter is to the upper right of dimmer Saturn. This evening they are 7.8° apart.  The pair continues to retrograde in eastern Sagittarius as the gap between them grows. 

Retrograde is an illusion that appears when Earth overtakes, passes, and moves away from planets that revolve around the sun farther from our central star than our home planet.  Normally, planets appear to move eastward when compared to the starry background.  While they rise in the east and set in the west during a 24-hour period from Earth’s rotation, these planets seem to move eastward compared to the stars. This occurs because of the mutual revolution of Earth and the planets around the sun.

Earth passed Jupiter on July 13 and Saturn a week later.  This giant planet duo retrogrades until next month.  When they resume their eastward motion, Jupiter overtakes and passes Saturn on December 21, 2020 in what is known as a Great Conjunction.

Jupiter revolves around the sun in 11.8 years and Saturn in 29.5 years.  Jupiter overtakes and passes Saturn in our sky every 19.6 years.  While the great conjunction is not rare, it occurs at intervals of once every generation.  This year’s conjunction is the closest passing of the two planets since 1623.

Each night at the same hour Jupiter and Saturn are farther westward in the sky.  The December conjunction occurs in the southwest sky.

If you’re up early enough tomorrow morning, catch Jupiter and Saturn before they set at 4 a.m.  At that hour bright Mars is in the southeast and brilliant Venus is in the east.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during August.

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.