Tag Archives: Planets

2020, September 25: Morning Planets, Mars and Venus

Mars in Pisces, September 25, 2020
2020, September 25: Mars is nearly between Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and Omicron Piscium (ο Psc) is 0.9° above ν Psc and 2.8° below ο Psc.

Bright Mars and brilliant Venus put on an early morning display.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Just before 5 a.m. CDT, bright Mars was high in the southwest.  It is among the dim stars of Pisces. The Red Planet is slowly retrograding – moving westward compared to the starry background.  This illusion occurs when our faster moving planet approaches and passes the slower moving outer planets.

This morning, Mars is nearly between the stars Omicron Piscium (ο Psc on the photo) and Nu Piscium (ν Psc).  The planet is 0.9° above ν Psc and 2.8° below ο Psc.

Mars is closest to Earth on October 6.  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.)

Earth moves between the sun and Mars on October 13.  This is called opposition, because the planets appear on opposite sides of Earth and their place and visible times are opposite of each other.

At opposition, a planet rises at sunset, appears in the south around midnight, and sets in the west

Venus in Leo, September 25, 2020
2020, September 25: Moving eastward in Leo, Venus is 4.8° to the upper left of Omicron Leonis (ο Leo).

At this hour, brilliant Venus is low in the east among the stars of Leo.  An hour later, about 90 minutes before sunrise, Venus is higher in the sky. 

At about 5 a.m. the famous constellation, Orion is in the south-southeast.  Orion’s larger hunting dog, Canis Major, with its bright star  Sirius is low in the southeast.

Among the stars Venus is moving eastward in Leo.  This morning it is 4.8° to the upper left of Omicron Leonis (ο Leo on the photo).  Watch Venus move farther away from ο Leo.  Early next month, Venus passes Regulus, the constellation’s brightest star.

Read more about the planets during September and October.

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Venus and Moon, September 14, 2020

2020, September 25: Morning Planets, Mars and Venus

Bright Mars and brilliant Venus put on an early morning display.

2020, September 25: Saturn and Moon

Saturn, Moon, Jupiter, September 25, 2020
September 25: One hour after sunset, the moon is 3.7° to the lower left of Saturn.

During early evening hours of September 25, the moon appears near Saturn in the southern sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

During the evening hours of September 25, the moon appears 3.7° to the lower left of Saturn.  The gibbous moon is over 70% illuminated.

Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, September 25, 2020.
2020, September 25: The gibbous moon (overexposed in the photo) appears 3.7° to the lower left of Saturn. Jupiter is 7.6° to the lower right of Saturn.

Jupiter is 7.6° to the lower right of Saturn. 

As seen from the sun, Jupiter passes Saturn in a heliocentric conjunction on November 2. This is a prelude to the Great Conjunction on December 21, when Jupiter passes very closely to Saturn. While the planetary pair appears close in the sky, they are hundreds of millions of miles apart in space.

A Great Conjunction occurs every 19.6 years. The last one occurred in 2000. The next Jupiter – Saturn conjunction occurs October 31, 2040, when the two planets rise into the eastern morning sky. The gap is 1.1°. At this year’s conjunction, the two planets appear ten times closer.

While other conjunctions have occurred, this year’s conjunction is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.  That year’s conjunction occurred after the invention of the telescope and during very bright evening twilight.  Read our article about whether it was observed.

Read more about the planets during September and October.

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2020, September 24: Jupiter, Moon, Teapot

On September 24, the Moon visits the “Teapot” shape of Sagittarius with the moon nearby.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

During the early evening of September 24, look in the south for the gibbous moon that is 60% illuminated.  Bright Jupiter is 4.2° to the upper left of the lunar orb. Dimmer Saturn is to Jupiter’s upper left.

Look carefully at the stars to the lower right of the gibbous moon.  They are the main stars of the constellation Sagittarius. The stars resemble a kitchen teapot.  The star Nunki, cataloged as Sigma Sagittarii (σ Sgr), is part of the Teapot’s handle.  Use a binocular, if necessary, to see the shape.

Jupiter is moving eastward compared to the starry background.  Saturn retrogrades, an illusion of moving westward that occurs when the faster moving Earth passes between the sun and the slower moving outer planets.

Next week, Saturn resumes its eastward motion as Jupiter continues to close the gap to the Ringed Wonder toward their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. This is the closest conjunction since the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction of 1623.  Great Conjunctions occur every 19.6 years, but this is the closest for nearly 400 years.

Here’s where the moon is on the next evening.

Read more about the planets during September and October.

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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 18: Bright Morning Planets, Stars On Display

Mars in Pisces, September 18, 2020
2020, September 18: Mars, now slowly retrograding in dim Pisces, is 1.9° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc) and 2.5° to the lower left of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).

A clear sky this morning allowed brilliant Morning Star Venus and bright Mars to put on a planetary display before sunrise.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

A north breeze that cleared smoke from the western wildfires revealed bright planets and bright stars.

At about 4 a.m. CDT, bright Mars was high in the south-southwest.  It is among the dim stars of Pisces. The Red Planet is slowly retrograding – moving westward compared to the starry background.  This illusion occurs when our faster moving planet approaches and passes the slower moving outer planets.

Mars is closest to Earth on October 6.  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.)

Earth moves between the sun and Mars on October 13.  This is called opposition, because the planets appear on opposite sides of Earth and their place and visible times are opposite of each other.

At opposition, a planet rises at sunset, appears in the south around midnight, and sets in the west as the sun rises in the east.  Mars appears at opposition about every 26 months.

On the photo above, Mars appears 1.9° to the upper left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc on the photo) and 2.5° to the lower left of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc). 

Venus with bright stars, September 18, 2020
2020, September 18: Brilliant Morning Star Venus appears with Sirius, Procyon, Castor, Pollux, Betelgeuse and Rigel.

At this hour, brilliant Venus is low in the east.  An hour later, about 90 minutes before sunrise, the planet is higher in the sky. 

At this time Venus appears with other bright stars.  The night’s brightest star, Sirius, is low in the southeast. About a month ago, the star made its first appearance in the morning sky this year.

The famous constellation Orion – with its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel – are to the upper right of the Dog Star.

With a binocular the Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery – is visible as a hazy cloud.  The Little Dog Star – Procyon – is nearby.  The Gemini Twins – Castor and Pollux appear above Venus

Venus in Cancer, September 18, 2020
2020, September 18: Venus is in the east before sunrise. It is 1.4° to the lower left of Omicron Cancri (ο Cnc).

Among the stars Venus is moving eastward in the very dim starfield of Cancer.  This morning it is 1.4° to the lower left of Omicron Cancri (ο Cnc on the photo).  Watch Venus move farther away from ο Cnc.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

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

The International Space Station passes Jupiter and Saturn, September 17, 2020
2020, September 17: The International Space Station passes Jupiter and Saturn during a 10-second time exposure. The planets are 8.0° apart.

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.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

The International Space Station passes Jupiter and Saturn this evening as seen across the Midwest.  A clearing sky permitted viewing this evening.  At its brightest, the ISS was easily brighter than Jupiter.

As for the planets, Jupiter is 8.0° to the right of Saturn.  Jupiter passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. This is the closest conjunction since the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction of 1623.  Great Conjunctions occur every 19.6 years, but this is the closest for nearly 400 years.

Before Jupiter passes Saturn in our sky, Jupiter edges past Saturn as viewed on the solar system’s scale in what is known as a heliocentric conjunction.  This occurs on November 2.

Continue to look for Jupiter and Saturn each evening.  During the next several weeks, watch Jupiter close the gap to Saturn.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during 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 13: Bright Jupiter Begins to Close on Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn in Sagittarius, September 13, 2020
2020, September 13: Saturn is 8.1° to the left of Jupiter. In the starfield, Jupiter is 2.1° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 2.9° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). Saturn is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).


Jupiter’s retrograde ends and the Giant Planet begins to close on Saturn for the Great Conjunction of 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the south as the sky darkens from early evening twilight.

Jupiter is now moving eastward compared to the starry background, while Saturn retrogrades – moves westward compared to the stars – until month’s end.

This evening Jupiter is to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr on the photo above) and to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). 

Saturn is 8.1° to the left of bright Jupiter.  It is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).

The gap between Jupiter and Saturn begins to close until the Great Conjunction of 2020, when Jupiter seems to pass very close to Saturn in the evening sky.  This is the closest conjunction since the Jupiter – Saturn conjunction of 1623.  Great Conjunctions occur every 19.6 years, but this is the closest for nearly 400 years.

Before Jupiter passes Saturn in our sky, Jupiter edges past Saturn as viewed on the solar system’s scale in what is known as a heliocentric conjunction.  This occurs on November 2.

Continue to look for Jupiter and Saturn each evening.  During the next several weeks, watch Jupiter close the gap to Saturn.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

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2020, November 2: Jupiter – Saturn Heliocentric Conjunction

A Jupiter-Saturn Heliocentric Conjunction, November 2, 2020
2020, November 2: Jupiter passes Saturn in a heliocentric conjunction, as viewed from outside the solar system.

As the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn nears, Jupiter passes Saturn if viewed from the sun.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

As Jupiter edges closer to Saturn in the evening sky of Earth, Jupiter passes Saturn as viewed from outside the solar system on November 2, 2020.  This is known as a heliocentric conjunction.  The next one for these two planets is on December 7, 2040.

If we were on Jupiter on November 2, we would say that Saturn is at opposition.  Saturn is in the opposite direction in the sky from the sun.  If we were Saturnians, then we would say that Jupiter is at inferior conjunction, between Saturn and the sun. Notice on the chart above that Earth is not close to the line of the heliocentric conjunction.

From these two planets in alignment, a question may develop about more planets appearing in a line from the sun. Astronomer Jean Meeus (Mathematical Astronomy Morsels, pp. 186-191) addresses the question.  Without reciting his reasons, the answer: “Never!” The dynamics of fast – moving Mercury to slow-moving Pluto (Yes, Pluto is one of the “Classic Nine” planets.), there is never a moment when all nine are in a line stretching from the sun.  He further notes that it’s impossible for even three to be in a line.  Reasonably they can be within a 60° angle of each other, 50° if Pluto is not included.

Jupiter and Saturn in Sagittarius, November 2, 2020
2020, November 2: Jupiter is 5.0° to the lower right of Saturn, about one hour after sunset. Look toward the south-southwest.

In our sky, the planets are 5.0° apart.  They can be found in the south-southwest about an hour after sunset on November 2.  Saturn is to the upper left of bright Jupiter. The planets are in front of the stars of eastern Sagittarius.  The famous “Teapot” shape is to the lower right of the planets.

The Great Conjunction occurs December 21, 2020.

Continue to watch Jupiter and Saturn, as the Jovian Giant moves in and passes the Ringed Wonder as viewed from our observing spot on Earth.

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2020, September 14: Venus, Moon Visit Beehive

Venus and Moon, 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.

The crescent moon and Morning Star Venus pass close to the Beehive star cluster.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Moving among the dim stars of Cancer, brilliant Morning Star Venus passes the Beehive star cluster during mid-September.

Venus and Moon, September 14, 2020
2020, September 14: Through a hazy sky, the moon is 5.0° to the lower left of Venus.

Venus has appeared in the morning sky since mid-June, and it is there into the new year.  It continues to step eastward compared to the starry background in its morning sojourn.

The planet continues to rise over 3.5 hours before sunrise.  By the beginning of morning twilight that starts about 100 minutes before sunrise, Venus sparkles above the skyline in the eastern sky.  Like the other easily visible planets, Venus appears as an overly bright star, the brightest “star” in the sky.  It even outshines Sirius, nighttime’s brightest star.

Venus and Moon, September 14, 2020
2020, September 14: The moon is 5.0° to the lower left of Venus.

All the planets appear to move along the ecliptic, an imaginary line that is the plane of the solar system.  The ecliptic makes a great circle around the sky through the familiar zodiacal constellations. Mars, shining in the southern sky during morning twilight, is among the stars of Pisces, while evening planets Jupiter and Saturn are in eastern Sagittarius.

Cancer is a dim constellation between the Gemini Twins and Leo, where Venus moves at month’s end.

The Beehive star cluster is a distant clump of stars that are similar to the famous Pleiades (Seven Sisters), but they are farther away, appearing dimmer to our eyes.  The cluster is also known as the Praesepe (Manger).

The Beehive star cluster looks like a fuzzy cloud to the unaided eye. Its best view is through a binocular, as it spills outside a telescope’s eyepiece.

The cluster is a phase of the life of a star where astronomical theory predicts that stars are formed in bunches.  This cluster has about 200 stars; about a dozen appear through a binocular.

On the morning of September 14, look about 90 minutes before sunrise for brilliant Venus and the lunar crescent that is 12% illuminated.  They are 5.0° apart. The star cluster is 2.7° to the upper left of Venus; that’s about half the Venus – Moon gap.  The lunar crescent is 4.6° to the lower left of the cluster.  The star Delta Cancri (δ Cnc on the chart above) is 0.9° to the upper left of Venus.

Venus is slightly closer to the Beehive on the morning of September 13 and the moon is above the scene.  See the detailed notes below for more specific directions.

Photographers can catch the scene with a camera that has time exposure settings and a tripod mount or another means of holding a steady camera. Exposures from 1 to 5 seconds yield satisfactory results.  Exposures that are longer reveal Earthshine on the moon, sunlight reflected from Earth’s clouds, continents, and oceans that gently illuminate the nighttime moonscape.

The detailed notes that follow provide more specifics:

  • September 13: Venus passes 2.3° to the lower right of the Beehive cluster. The planet is also 1.5° to the upper right of (Delta Cancri (δ Cnc). One hour before sunrise, find the brilliant planet about 28° up in the east.  The waning crescent moon (25.3 days past the New Moon phase, 20% illuminated) is over 10° above Venus. The moon is also 6.1° to the lower right of Pollux. 
  • September 14: Venus 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 Venus and 4.6° to the upper right of the lunar crescent. One hour before sunrise, find Venus about 28° up in the east. 
The moon and Venus, September 15, 2020
2020, September 15: The crescent moon and Venus in the morning sky.
  • September 15: One hour before sunrise, Venus 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 Venus.  The moon (27.2d, 6%) is about 15° up in the east.  It is 5.4° to the upper left of Regulus
The crescent moon, September 15, 2020
2020, September 15: The moon is in the east before sunrise. The thin crescent moon is 6% illuminated.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

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2020, September 5: A Siriusly Spectacular Morning Sky

Venus and the stars during morning twilight, September 5, 2020
2020, September 5: Morning Star Venus appears during twilight with Sirius, Procyon, Orion, and Gemini.

The bright stars of September’s morning shine from the east before sunrise.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Venus and Sirius shine from a spectacularly clear sky this morning during twilight.  Venus is making its way through the dim stars of Cancer. It is to the lower right of the Gemini Twins – Castor and Pollux.

Sirius, the brightest nighttime star, is beneath Orion and its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel.

Three stars – Betelgeuse, Procyon, and Sirius – make the Winter Triangle.  These stars are prominent in the evening sky during the winter months in the northern hemisphere.

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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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