This morning Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – the Bright Outer Planets – stretch across the southeastern sky. The gap between Saturn and Mars is 17.9°. Mars is 9.4° to the upper right of Jupiter. Jupiter is 8.5° to the upper right of Saturn
In the starfield Jupiter and Mars are in front of the stars of Sagittarius. Jupiter is 3.7° to the lower left of Phi Sagittarii. Mars is 3.8° to the upper right of Nunki and 4.1° to the left of Kaus Borealis.
Mars marches eastward compared to the starry background. It catches and passes Jupiter on March 20 and Saturn, March 31.
In two mornings, March 4, Jupiter is nearly midway between Mars and Saturn as Mars closes the gaps on the planetary pair.
The morning planet parade is taking shape as Saturn becomes visible in the southeast after its solar conjunction. Three bright morning planets are visible in the southeast before sunrise. During the next month, watch Mars approach and pass both planets. Each morning Mars is noticeably closer to Jupiter. Mars passes Jupiter on March 20 and Saturn, March 31. The three planets have not appeared this close in the sky for about 20 years.
On the next clear morning, look to the southeast, bright Jupiter is low in the sky. It is the brightest “star” in that part of the sky – only the sun, moon, and Venus are brighter. Dimmer Mars is to Jupiter’s upper right. As with our photograph, Saturn may be hiding near a neighbor’s house or tree, to the lower left of Jupiter.
In the sky, without a telescope, these worlds appear as bright stars. As they move through their orbits, they seem to move relative to the constellations. Historically, they were called the “wandering stars” — the “planets.” To our ancestors there were seven known wanderers — sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. They were so important that the days of the week were named for them.
After the invention of the telescope, these “stars” were first seen as separate worlds.
In a cold, clear sky with a gibbous moon, morning planets Jupiter and Mars shine from the southeastern sky. Jupiter and Saturn are emerging from their recent solar conjunctions and heading for their Great Conjunction later in the year.
This morning, Mars is nearly 18° to the upper right of Jupiter. During the next 5 weeks watch Mars march eastward compared to the starry background and pass Jupiter on March 20 and Saturn, March 31.
Linkto summary about February 2020’s morning planets.
Here’s the detailed note for this morning:
February 14: One hour before sunrise, the moon (20.6 days past New, 66% illuminated), nearly 36° up in the south-southwest is midway from Spica to Zubeneschamali (β Lib, m = 2.6) and about 2° to the left of Kappa Virginis (κ Vir, m = 4.2). Use a binocular to locate the dimmer stars this morning. Jupiter passes Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr, m =2.9), 1.4° to the lower right of the star. Mars is nearly 18° to the upper right of Jupiter, 1.6° to the upper right of 4 Sagittarii (4 Sgr, m = 4.1) – the western gateway to the bright nebulae in Sagittarius. Watch Mars move through this region during the next several mornings. The challenge is to find a reasonable time to view Mars among the nebulae so that it has enough altitude, but when the sky is still dark enough to find the faint clouds. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is over 10° in altitude in the southeastern sky. Saturn is about 10° to Jupiter’s lower left, nearly 6° in altitude.
On March 20, faster moving Mars overtakes and passes bright Jupiter in the morning’s southeastern sky.
One hour before sunrise, Jupiter is over 16° in altitude above the southeast horizon. This morning is the Jupiter – Mars conjunction! Mars is 0.6° to the lower right of Jupiter.
This morning the Saturn – Mars gap is 7.1°; the Jupiter – Saturn gap, 7.0°.
The next Jupiter – Mars conjunction is May 29, 2022 in the morning sky. At that conjunction the sky has 4 bright planets – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn – in the southeastern sky. The moon is nearby, a few days before the closest Jupiter – Mars passage.
As Mars closes in on Jupiter for a conjunction on March 20, the moon joins the scene two days before the conjunction. The lunar crescent makes a pretty triangle with Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter is the brighter planet. The trio makes a small triangle, the moon is 2.4° to the lower right of Jupiter and 2.2° to the lower left of Mars.
Look for the planets and the moon one hour before sunrise in the southeast.