Tag: Saturn

2020, March 31: Saturn – Mars Conjunction

 

Mars passes Saturn, March 31, 2020

On March 31, Mars passes Saturn.  The trio of planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – span 6.1°.  This is the closest the three planets have appeared in the sky since April 14, 2000.

This morning is the Saturn – Mars conjunction! One hour before sunrise, Mars, 16° up in the southeast is 0.9° to the lower right of Saturn. Bright Jupiter is to the upper right of Saturn and Mars.

The Mars – Saturn gap grows after the conjunction: Apr 1, 1°; Apr 2, 1.4°; Apr 3, 1.9°; Apr 4, 2.5°; Apr 5, 3.1°; Apr 6, 3.7°; Apr 7, 4.3°; Apr 8, 5.0°.

Link to summary of March 2020 planetary activity.

2020, March 20: Jupiter – Mars Conjunction

Mars Jupiter conjunction March 20, 2020

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.

Link to summary of March 2020 planetary activity.

2020, March 18: Moon Joins Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn in Morning Sky

Mars, Jupiter and moon in the morning sky on March 18, 2020

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.

Link to summary of March 2020 planetary activity.

2020, March: Morning Planet Parade

Mars, Jupiter, Saturn in morning sky during March 2020

Highlights for the month:

For those readers wanting more details, click Semi-technical daily notes for the month

The three bright outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – shine in the southeastern sky before sunrise.  Look about one hour before sunrise.

On the chart above, the planets span nearly 19°.  Jupiter is the brightest planet in the group.  Saturn is to the lower left, near the horizon.  Mars, dimmer than Saturn, appears to the upper Jupiter’s upper left.

The charts on this page identify two stars that can be used to note how the planets are moving.  The stars are not as bright as the planets, but they make an unmoving background to watch the eastward motion of the planets.

Each morning the scene changes with Mars getting closer to Jupiter.  Jupiter slowly ambles toward Saturn for the Great Conjunction that occurs in December 2020.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, March 15, 2020

On March 15, Jupiter is over 15° up in the southeast. The Red Planet, only 2.7° to Jupiter’s upper right, continues to close the gap on the Giant Planet. Saturn is 7.4° to Jupiter’s lower left. The three planets span 10.1° this morning.

2020, February: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in a Morning Planet Parade

February Highlights:

  • Jupiter and Mars in the morning sky during early February 2020
  • Moon Eclipses Mars on February 18
  • Saturn joins Jupiter and Mars later in the month
  • Moon passes Jupiter (Feb 19) and Saturn (Feb 20)

 

Mars and Jupiter in morning sky

As Jupiter and Saturn head toward their once every generation Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020, they appear higher in the morning sky during February.

During February 2020, Jupiter becomes easier to see in the morning sky with dimmer Mars.  The Red Planet is to the lower left of the star Antares.  The chart above shows the sky on February 5.  A more detailed note for the morning:

  • February 5: Saturn rises at Nautical Twilight. One hour before sunrise, Mars, over 17° up in the southeast, is 0.9° to the upper left of 44 Ophiuchi (44 Oph, m = 4.2).  Look for Jupiter low in the southeast, about 5° up in the sky.

Moon occults Mars

The moon moves close to the planets after mid-month.  As sunrise approaches in the Central Time Zone, the moon moves near Mars.  Just after sunrise from the Chicago area, the moon covers (occults) Mars.  An occultation is a type of eclipse that does not involve the sun.  Here’s the detailed note:

  • February 18: One hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (24.6 days past the New phase, 24% illuminated), about 17° up in the southeast, is 0.4° to the right of Mars. If you look earlier, when the moon is lower in the darker sky, the lunar crescent is between M8 and M20. This is clearly a bit of a stretch to have a good view of the nebulae, the moon, and Mars. The objects’ low altitudes and the approaching twilight make this a challenge. Notice that Mars is 1.5° to the upper right of 1 Sagittarii (1 Sgr, m =4.9). Watch it approach and pass the star during the next few mornings. Jupiter is to the lower left of the Moon – Mars pair, nearly 11° up in the southeast. Saturn is to the lower left of Jupiter, likely lost behind terrestrial obstructions. As sunrise approaches, the crescent moon inches toward Mars. If you can track Mars into a brighter sky, the moon occults it a few minutes after 6 a.m. CST. Observers in the Western U.S. see the moon occult Mars in a darker sky.

As the mornings progress Saturn appears higher in the sky and easier to see.

Jupiter, moon, and Saturn

The moon passes Jupiter on February 19 and Saturn the following morning.  Find a location with a clear horizon to the southeast.  On February 19, the moon is to the right of Jupiter.  The next morning the lunar crescent to the lower right of Saturn Here are detailed notes for those mornings:

  • February 19: One hour before sunrise, the old moon (25.6d, 16%) is 10° up in the southeast. It is 4.0° to the right of bright Jupiter. The planet is 1.7° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii. Saturn is over 9° to the lower left of Jupiter. Dimmer Mars, over 16° up in the south-southeast, is nearly 12° to the upper right of the thin lunar crescent. The planet is 0.8° to the upper right of 1 Sagittarii. Watch Mars approach Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr, m =2.8), the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. This morning Mars is nearly 5° to the upper right of the star.
  • February 20: One hour before sunrise, Mars is over 16° in altitude in the south-southeast. With a binocular observe that it is 0.2° to the upper right of 1 Sagittarii. This morning Mars is 4.2° to the upper right of Kaus Borealis. Bright Jupiter, 10° up in the southeast, is nearly 15° to the lower left of the Red Planet. The Giant Planet is 1.9° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii. About fifteen minutes later, the moon (26.6d, 9%) is 2.6° to the right of Saturn and 9.0° to the lower left of Jupiter. Saturn is over 7° up in the southeast.

For those wanting to read the detailed notes for each day, here is my summary for February 2020.

Happy Observing

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).