Tag Archives: sky watching

2020, October 25: Morning Star Venus, Evening Moon, Planets

Venus in Virgo, October 25, 2020
2020, October 25: One hour before sunrise, Venus is 0.9° to the upper left of Beta Virginis (β Vir on the chart above). With a binocular note that Venus, β Vir, and Nu Virginis (ν Vir) nearly make a line.

The brilliant Morning Star Venus continues to step through Virgo.  It is that “bright star in the eastern sky” before sunrise.  This morning Venus is near Beta Virginis.  In the evening sky, the gibbous moon is between Mars and Jupiter, and near the star Fomalhaut.  Mars is in the east-southeast.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the east-southeast.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:54 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for other locations.

International Space Station Pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 6:04 a.m. CDT in the west-southwest.  It reaches its highest point about 65° up in the north-northwest at 6:06 a.m. CDT.  It disappears at 6:09 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the northeast.  Find an unobstructed view to the north and east.  The ISS passes near the Pleiades in the west, passes higher in the sky near the star Capella, and passes the Big Dipper in the northeast before it disappears.  The ISS makes a 17 second appearance in the east, altitude 11°, at 4:31 a.m. CDT.

Morning: Mars and Venus appear farther apart in the morning sky.  Venus continues stepping eastward in Virgo as Mars retrogrades in Pisces.  About two hours before sunrise, Mars is nearly 9° up in the west, and Venus has an altitude of 11° in the east.  Mars is no longer seen in the sky at the same time as Venus after November 9 when they are in opposite directions from Earth.  Mars sets as Venus rises, a Venus – Mars opposition.  Mars and Venus are visible in the sky together next spring when both appear in the evening sky.

This morning, about an hour before sunrise, Venus is 0.9° to the upper left of Beta Virginis (β Vir on the chart above).  With a binocular note that Venus, β Vir, and Nu Virginis (ν Vir) nearly make a line.

Today, Mercury is at inferior conjunction, between Earth and Sun.  It rapidly races into the morning sky.  Look for it next month, low in the eastern sky before sunrise, below Venus.  The speedy planet makes its best morning appearance of the year next month.

Detailed morning note: Now setting about 70 minutes before sunrise, Mars is nearly 9° up in the west, two hours before sunrise. At this hour Venus is about 11° up in the east. The Venus – Mars gap is 159.0° of ecliptic longitude.  Within three weeks, Mars sets before Venus rises, a Venus – Mars opposition.  The brilliant planet passes 0.9° to the upper left of Beta Virginis (β Vir).  One hour before sunrise, find them nearly 22° in altitude in the east-southeast.  With a binocular notice that NuVirginis (ν Vir), Venus, and β Vir are nearly in a line. Venus is 3.9° to the lower right of ν Vir. Through a telescope, Venus is 13.6” across and 80% illuminated, a morning gibbous phase. Mercury is at inferior conjunction at 1:23 p.m. CDT.  It quickly emerges into the morning sky for its best morning apparition of the year.  

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Moon in Aquarius, October 25, 2020
2020, October 25: Two hours after sunset, the gibbous moon appears in the south-southeast, over 15° to the upper right of Fomalhaut. Mars about 45° to the left of the lunar orb. The moon is about midway from Mars to Jupiter.

Evening: The moon and three planets shine during the evening hours.  The bright gibbous moon is among the stars of Aquarius.

One hour after sunset, the moon is in the south-southeast above the star Fomalhaut.  The lunar orb appears nearly between Mars and Jupiter.  Mars is in the east-southeast, while bright Jupiter is in the south-southwest.  Saturn is 5.6° to the upper left of Jupiter.

 (See our Mars summary for October here.)

The giant-planet pair is slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background of Sagittarius.  Jupiter overtakes Saturn on December 21, 2020 for a Great Conjunction.

Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the moon (9.2d, 74%) is nearly 26° up in the south-southeast in Aquarius.  Use a binocular to spot Delta Aquarii (δ Aqr, m =3.2), 8.1° to the lower left of the gibbous moon.  Saturn is nearly 27° up in the south, 5.6° to the upper left of bright Jupiter.  Both planets are moving eastward in Sagittarius.  In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).  Jupiter is 4.1° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 0.6° below 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  At this hour, Mars is over 16° up in the east.  The Mars – Jupiter gap is 87.4° of ecliptic longitude.  This gap continues to close until Mars resumes its eastward direction next month.  Then the gap widens relatively quickly.  Two hours after sunset, the Red Planet is over 27° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon.  In the starfield, Mars is 0.9° to the lower right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc) and 3.2° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc).  At this hour, Saturn is nearly 24° up in the south-southwest with Jupiter to its lower right.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

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Venus and the moon, June 29, 2020.

2020, October 25: Morning Star Venus, Evening Moon, Planets

The brilliant Morning Star Venus continues to step through Virgo. It is that “bright star in the eastern sky” before sunrise. This morning Venus is near Beta Virginis. In the evening sky, the gibbous moon is between Mars and Jupiter, and near the star Fomalhaut. Mars is in the east-southeast. Jupiter and Saturn are in the east-southeast.

Orion Rising, September 4, 2020

2020, October 24: Morning Star Venus, Evening Planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn

Bright Morning Star Venus continues to sparkle in the eastern sky before sunrise. It shines from in front of the stars of Virgo. Evening planet Mars appears in the eastern sky while Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest. The bright gibbous moon shines from the stars of Capricornus.

Astronomy

2020: Daylight Saving Time Commentary

In this commentary is a different idea about year-round daylight time, based on astronomical concepts for the mid-northern latitudes. Year-round or not, a different approach may yield better results.

2020, October 24: Morning Star Venus, Evening Planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn

Venus in Virgo, October 24, 2020
2020, October 24: Brilliant Venus shines in front of the stars of Virgo. This morning it is 1.9° above Beta Virginis (β Vir). Notice that the planet is in a line with Denebola – the Lion’s Tail – and Nu Virginis (ν Vir).

Bright Morning Star Venus continues to sparkle in the eastern sky before sunrise.  It shines from in front of the stars of Virgo.  Evening planet Mars appears in the eastern sky while Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest.  The bright gibbous moon shines from the stars of Capricornus.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:14 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:55 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

International Space Station Pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 5:16 a.m. CDT in the south-southeast.  It reaches its highest point about 26° up in the southeast at 5:17 a.m. CDT.  It disappears at 5:20 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the east-northeast.  Find an unobstructed view to the east.  The ISS first appears to the lower left of Sirius and moves toward Venus, passing above the brilliant planet. The station is brighter than Sirius, but dimmer than Venus. 

Morning: Mars is rapidly disappearing from the morning sky.  It is low in the west as Venus rises in the east.  An hour before sunrise, find brilliant Venus in the east-southeast.  It is among the stars of Virgo.  Use a binocular to view it 1.9° above Beta Virginis (β Vir on the chart).  Notice that the planet makes a line with the Lion’s Tail, Denebola, and Nu Virginis (ν Vir). Venus continues to step eastward among the stars.  Use a binocular to watch the planet pass β Vir during the next two mornings.

Detailed morning note: Ninety minutes before sunrise, Mars is over 4° in altitude in the west.  Thirty minutes later, Venus is 22.0° up in the east-southeast.  It is 1.9° above β Vir.  Notice that Denebola, ν Vir, and Venus are nearly in a line. Venus is 3.4° to the lower right of ν Vir and 11.4° to the lower right of the Lion’s Tail.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon, October 24, 2020.
2020, October 24: The bright gibbous moon is to the left of the Jupiter – Saturn planet pair. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.7°.

Evening: As the sky darkens in the evening, the gibbous moon is nearly one-third of the way up in the sky in the south-southeast.  It is among the stars of Capricornus.  Mars is above the tree line and rising higher during the evening.  The planet is retrograding in Pisces.  The westward motion of the planet compared to the starry background of Pisces is from the earth passing Mars and moving away from it. (See our Mars summary for October here.)  Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest in front of the stars of Sagittarius.  Both planets are moving eastward compared to the background stars, but slower than Mars’ motion.  Jupiter catches Saturn for a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.  Make nightly observations to watch the gap slowly close during the next several weeks.

Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the moon (8.2 days past the New moon phase, 65% illuminated) is nearly 26° in altitude in the south-southeast.  It is 4.1° to the lower right of Gamma Capricorni (γ Cap, m = 3.6). Mars is 16.0° up in the east.  Farther west along the ecliptic, Jupiter is nearly 25° up in the south-southwest.  Saturn is 5.7° to the upper left of brighter Jupiter.  In the starfield, Jupiter is 0.6° to the lower left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr). An hour later, Mars is nearly 27° up in the east-southeast.  In the starfield, the Red Planet is 0.8° to the lower right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc) and 3.2° to the lower right of Epsilon (ε Psc).  The moon is about 28° up in the south with Saturn and Jupiter to the gibbous moon’s lower right.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

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The crescent moon before sunrise, July 19, 2020.

2020, October 23: Last Call for Venus and Mars in Morning Sky

Mars and Morning Star Venus are nearing their opposition so that they do not appear together in the morning sky for the remainder of 2020. In the evening sky, three planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – along with the moon, are easy to locate.

Venus and Moon, October 13, 2020

2020, October 21: Morning Star Venus, Evening Crescent Moon

Morning Star Venus and Mars are approaching the date when they do not appear in the morning sky again for the remainder of the year. The lunar crescent appears among the stars of Sagittarius, near giant planets Jupiter and Saturn as they approach their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

2020: Daylight Saving Time Commentary

sunset over ocean
Sunset over the ocean

In this commentary is a different idea about year-round daylight time, based on astronomical concepts for the mid-northern latitudes. Year-round or not, a different approach may yield better results.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

From the beginning, here’s the conclusion, there’s no daylight to save during the months with the least daylight. Also note that “DST (Daylight Saving Time) is simply a work-time arrangement,” from a paper from the European Union published at the National Institutes of Health (nih.org).  We change our clocks to have more daylight during the evening hours, when there’s daylight available to shift.  The arrangement would work better if the clocks returned to year-round standard time to allow companies, schools, and families determine their own schedules.

The authors of the above study cite myths around DST, including one that shifting the clock one hour ahead creates an extra hour of daylight. Rather, it moves time one time zone eastward.  The authors conclude, that countries should consider “Obliterating DST (in favor of permanent Standard Time) and reassigning countries and regions to their actual sun-clock based time zones. Under such adjustment, social (local) clock time will match sun clock time and therefore body clock time most closely.”

Companies and other organizations can provide flexible work times or change their shifts if their employees want “longer evenings” at particular times of the year.  The authors advocate for year-round standard time.

Around the equinoxes, the popular press focuses on daylight and nighttime; this is followed by a twice-yearly rant about changing the clocks.  When I consider my notes and articles about the sky, I look farther into daylight and nighttime. I break the latter into twilight and darkness.  Twilight, after sunset or before sunrise, has three phases.  Civil Twilight occurs when the sun is 6° below the horizon. Nautical Twilight occurs when the sky is 12° below the horizon, and Astronomical Twilight occurs at the −18° mark.  When the sun is 18° below the horizon, throughout the night and until it reaches −18° altitude in the east, the sky is as dark as it gets naturally.  Statements like, “Dark as midnight,” “darkest before the dawn,” and other similar metaphors have nothing to do with the reality of darkness of the night, and they are inaccurate statements of nature’s light and dark cycles.  

I break the 24 hour cycle into daylight, twilight, and darkness – the time after evening twilight ends and morning twilight begins. Daylight and darkness are equal during late October and then again during early February.

Recently Steve Chapman penned an article  in the Chicago Tribune about the need to keep daylight time throughout the year.  The main focus was about evening driving versus morning driving. Chapman referenced a study about the subject:  Time Well Spent: An Economic Analysis of Daylight Saving Time Legislation.

The study reviews the history of the topic, an analysis of energy consumption, a discussion of effective drive times, and an analysis of daylight during January.  The final conclusion of the article is to keep daylight time during the colder months to mitigate evening driving difficulties.

 Chapman discounts claims about children safety with, “If morning darkness is perceived to pose a danger to kids in some places, schools could push back their start times an hour.”  Anybody with children in high school activities know their children already arrive home as late as 10 p.m. from practices and performances.  Adding another hour to their arrival time is not acceptable to parents, even when school starts an hour later the next morning.

The issue of daylight is not only with January, but starts earlier. By mid-October, the shortening daytime length is noticeable. I have looked at three analyses. One looks from the time of equal daylight and darkness – the time beginning at the end of evening twilight and ending at the beginning of morning twilight – that occurs during late October and recurs during early February. The winter solstice is the mid-point of the time interval.  The second looks at centering the study on the date of Earth’s perihelion (January 2).  The third considers the time around when the sun is truly in the south, at the meridian, at noon on the clock. Here’s what I found:

For the first analysis, I looked at the length of daylight from about the time of equal day – equal darkness, centering on the winter solstice about 50 days later and ending a few days after the equal daylight – equal darkness day, 50 days later, for a total time interval for 101 days, used for all three reviews.  I used sunrise, sunset, and twilight data from the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

For this purpose, the first day is Halloween (10 hours, 24 minutes of daylight).  On the winter solstice, daylight lasts 9 hours, 8 minutes.  The interval ends on February 10, 2021 (10 hours, 25 minutes).  During that 101 days the average day length is 9 hours, 35 minutes.  Because averages “are affected by the extremes,” the median (middle) value is 9 hours, 33 minutes.  So, there’s no extreme value to affect the average, indicating that the change across the interval is slow and consistent without wild variations.  For 38 days (December 2 – January 9) daylight is less than or equal to 9 hours, 20 minutes.

In the second review, I looked at 101 days centering on the perihelion date (January 2), when Earth is closest to the sun. The average day is 9 hours, 38 minutes, while the median value is 9 hours, 29 minutes.

This might be a surprise that the sun is not precisely south every day when our clocks read noon.  Sometimes the sun reaches the south point before clock noon and sometimes later.  This is from the earth’s non-circular revolution around the sun and the planet’s 23.5° tilt.      

In the third review, the 101 days are centered on the date when the sun is precisely south at noon in Chicago, Illinois (January 14).  The average day is 9 hours, 48 minutes, while the median in 9 hours, 28 minutes.

While the mid-point days span 24 days, the average range difference is only 13 minutes, hardly any time to save.  The longer interval gives a larger indication of the daylight available during the colder months at the mid-latitudes, rather than a single month after the winter solstice.

Again, regardless of the time interval that is studied across many days with short daylight, there is no daylight to save during the cold months, when 8.5 hours of work (including a meal break) and an hour of commuting time, 30 minutes each way, are factored in.  Recall that DST is simply a work-time arrangement.

Health experts have weighed in on changing the clock.  The CDC (cdc.gov) described communication that companies should use with their employees to mitigate time change.  The National Institutes of Health (nih.gov) has a paper that describes health risks of changing the clock twice a year. Cardiac risk is documented to be higher in the spring when the clocks are advanced an hour.  Further, this is elevated for individuals who sleep less than 6 hours each night. The article’s authors further note that cardiac incidents could be related to the colder temperatures of March, when the time change is implemented in the US.  The authors conclude: “The following is an easy strategy: (a) move bedtime 1 hour a few days prior to the spring shift, to limit sleep deprivation effects; and (b) take care in exposing oneself to abrupt changes of temperature in the immediate post-shift days.”

The authors ask, “Could such an easy combination of sleep strategies, scarves, hats, and gloves effectively reduce the Cardiovascular effects of DST?”

Consider this conclusion in that year-round daylight time was in effect only one year, 1974.  Critics of year-round daylight time often cite the deaths of eight children as a reason to turn back the clocks in autumn.  Often public policy is driven by such dramatic events. Even private lives are guided by profound personal events that families might say that “we’re not doing that again.” 

Admittingly, it’s a challenge making the hour jump forward each spring and it has documented health effects. Time change for travel outside the home time zone has its individual consequences.  That does not prevent local or world travel, even knowing the minimal or maximum effects of jet lag.

Certainly, the recommendations of Ronnenberg, Winnebeck, and Klerman – the authors of the first study referenced – are worth considering.  Keeping standard time and allowing organizations to modify their own work calendars gives immediate and local control to those the decision affects.  Further a relook at the time zone dimensions to connect them to regional and local work and social patterns is worth a consideration.  What works in Boston is not necessarily effective in Grand Rapids.  Both are in the same time zone, but nearly an hour apart according to the sun’s travel.  The same for North Platte, Nebraska and Ogallala, Nebraska. They are about 50 miles and a time zone apart.

So, in conclusion: There’s no daylight to save during the cold months.  DST is simply a work-time arrangement.  This issue might be better resolved with a return to year-round standard time, allowing local schools, businesses, and families decide their own summertime and wintertime schedules, with the guidance of the health concerns of the CDC.  In the long-term, a national study of how time zones better fit solar time and personal time would help policy makers decide whether time zone realignment is necessary, rather than considering year-round daylight time.  Let’s just delete the idea of year-round daylight time.  We can have more daylight in the evening through year-round standard time with localities and organizations determining their own schedules.

On November 1, 2020, the clock returns to Standard Time. Let’s keep the clock there.

Recent Articles

Jupiter and Saturn in Sagittarius, October 4, 2020.

2020, October 20: Morning Star Venus, Evening Lunar Crescent

Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the east-southeast before sunrise. It is in front of the stars of Leo. In the evening, the lunar crescent is in the southwest, not far from Jupiter and Saturn that are approaching their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. Bright Mars shines from the evening’s eastern sky.

Moon in Taurus, October 7, 2020

2020, October 19: Arcturus Helical Rising, 4 Planets

Arcturus returns to the morning sky – its helical rising. Morning Star Venus and Mars are visible before sunrise. Evening planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are visible after sunset.

The crescent moon, September 15, 2020

2020, October 18: Crescent Moon in West

The crescent moon is low in the west about 30 minutes after sunset near the star Antares. Four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible during the night.

2020, October 23: Last Call for Venus and Mars in Morning Sky

The moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, October 23, 2020
2020, October 23: Venus shines from the eastern sky before sunrise. The planet is 3.2° to the lower right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir) and 3.0° above Beta Virginis (β Vir).

Mars and Morning Star Venus are nearing their opposition so that they do not appear together in the morning sky for the remainder of 2020.  In the evening sky, three planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – along with the moon, are easy to locate.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:13 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:56 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

International Space Station Pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 6:02 a.m. CDT low in the south-southwest.  It reaches its highest point about 44° up in the southeast at 6:05 a.m. CDT.  It disappears at 6:08 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the east-northeast.  Find an unobstructed view to the south and east.  The ISS moves below Sirius in the south-southwest, beneath Regulus and above Venus in the east.  The station is brighter than Sirius and dimmer than Venus.  This is an excellent opportunity to see the passage of the ISS across the sky.

Morning: It’s time to make the “last call” to see Mars and Venus in the morning sky together for the rest of 2020.  Mars is low in the west 90 minutes before sunrise, while Venus is about 15° up in the east. On November 9, the planets are in opposition – appear in opposite directions in the sky.  Mars sets in the west as Venus rises in the east.  What is the last day you see Venus in the eastern sky and Mars in the western morning sky? When Venus moves back into the evening sky next year, they again appear in the sky at the same time.  As Venus rises higher, the starfield of Virgo becomes easier to see.  The planet is near the stars Nu Virginis (ν Vir) and Beta Virginis (β Vir).

Detailed morning note: Ninety minutes before sunrise, Mars is over 5° up in the west. The planet sets one hour before sunrise this morning.  At this hour, brilliant Venus is over 22° in altitude in the east-southeast. Venus is in Virgo. It moves through the constellation in 36 days. In the starfield, the planet is 3.2° to the lower right of ν Vir and 3.0° above β Vir. The moon reaches its First Quarter phase at 8:23 a.m. CDT.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Venus in Virgo, October 23, 2020
2020, October 23: The slightly gibbous moon is about 11° to the lower left of Saturn in the southern sky about one hour after sunset. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.8°.

Evening: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the evening sky.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest as a prelude to the Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.8°.  Saturn is to the upper left of Jupiter. The planets are slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background of eastern Sagittarius.  (See the starry background for Jupiter and Saturn here.) Jupiter sets in the southwest before 10:45 p.m. CDT.  The slightly gibbous moon is to the lower left of Saturn. Farther eastward, bright Mars is retrograding among dim stars in Pisces. The Red Planet sets tomorrow morning about an hour before sunrise. (See our Mars summary for October here.)

Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the slightly gibbous moon (7.2 days after the New moon phase, 55% illuminated), 25.0° up in the south in southwest Capricornus, is 11° to the lower left of Saturn.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.8°. In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sgr.  Jupiter is 3.9° to the lower left of π Sgr and 0.6° below 50 Sgr.  At this hour, Mars is over 15° in altitude in the east. Two hours after sunset, Mars is 25° in altitude in the east-southeast. The Red Planet is 0.8° to the lower right of 80 Psc and 3.4° to the lower right of ε Psc.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

Recent Articles

Full moon

2020, October 17: Moon Returns to Evening Sky

A New moon is visible low in the western sky after sunset. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible during the night. Jupiter continues to close the gap to Saturn before the Great Conjunction of 2020.

Venus and Jupiter, August 18, 2012

2020, October 16: Winter Triangle in South

The Winter Triangle is in the south before sunrise. During the nighttime hours four bright planets are visible: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Venus from Galileo (NASA photo)

2020, October 15: Skies for Ides of October

Four planets are visible on October 15. Venus and Mars are in the morning sky. Mars returns to the sky during the early evening along with Jupiter and Saturn.

2020, October 22: Morning Star Venus in Leo, Evening Planets and Moon

Venus in Leo, October 22, 2020
2020, October 22: One hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus is in the east-southeast. It is near the stars Tau Leonis (τ Leo on the chart.), Nu Leonis (ν Leo), and Beta Virginis (β Vir). Use a binocular to spot the bright planet with the dimmer stars in the background.

Bright Mars is visible in the western sky before sunrise. Brilliant Venus makes its last appearance in Leo for this morning apparition. In the evening sky, the crescent moon is near Jupiter and Saturn, while bright Mars begins the night in the east-southeast.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:12 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:58 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

Morning: Bright Mars dims slightly compared to its brightest nights over two weeks ago.  The planet is in the western sky about 90 minutes before sunrise.  It appears lower as Venus rises in the east.  This is the last morning for Venus in front of the stars of Leo.  Use a binocular to spot it among a dimmer starfield. Tomorrow it moves into Virgo.

Detailed morning note: Mars (m = −2.4) is about 7° up in the west, ninety minutes before sunrise. Mars is in the evening sky after sunset this evening.  As twilight progresses, look for Venus over 20° up in the east-southeast. In the starfield, it is 2.3° to the lower left of Tau Leonis (τ Leo) to the right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir), and 4.2° above Beta Virginis (β Vir). Tomorrow morning, Venus appears in Virgo.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

The moon in Sagittarius, October 20-22, 2020.
2020: October 20-22: The moon is visible in the southern sky after sunset. On October 20, it is visible between Antares and Kaus Borealis. October 21, the lunar crescent is between Kaus Borealis and Nunki. On October 22, the moon is near Jupiter and Saturn.

Evening: Bright Mars is well up in the eastern sky this evening in front of the stars of Pisces.  A binocular is helpful to observe the Red Planet against the distant starry background.  The thick crescent moon is in the south-southwest near Jupiter and Saturn.  It is to the lower left of Jupiter and lower right of Saturn.

Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the thick crescent moon (6.2 days after the New moon phase, 44% illuminated), 23° up in the south, makes a nice triangle with Jupiter and Saturn (m = 0.6).  The crescent is 4.4° to the lower left of Jupiter and 4.2° to the lower right of Saturn.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.9°. In the starfield, Jupiter is 3.8° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 0.7° below 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr). At this hour, Mars is nearly 15° up in the east.  About an hour later when it is higher in the sky (26° altitude), use a binocular to spot the Red Planet 0.9° below 80 Piscium (80 Psc).

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Recent Articles

Moon in the Bull's Horns. October 8, 2020

2020, October 7-8: One Night, Four Planets

During early October nights four bright planets and the moon appear in the sky. Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars shine during evening hours. Before sunrise brilliant Morning Star Venus and Mars gleam in the sky.

Moon in Taurus, October 7, 2020

2020, October 7: Morning Star Venus, Mars, Moon

Brilliant Venus, bright Mars, and the gibbous moon shine brightly in the morning sky. Mars shines from Pisces in the western sky. Venus is “that bright star” in the east before sunrise.

The crescent moon, September 15, 2020

2020, October 6: Venus Steps Through Leo

Morning Star Venus steps through Leo during October in the eastern sky near the star Regulus. Venus is “that bright star” in the east before sunrise.

2020, October 21: Morning Star Venus, Evening Crescent Moon

Venus in Leo, October 21, 2020
2020, October 21: Morning Star Venus is in the eastern sky before sunrise. This morning it passes 10.9° to the lower right of Denebola, the Tail of Leo. It is 4.0° to the upper right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir).

Morning Star Venus and Mars are approaching the date when they do not appear in the morning sky again for the remainder of the year.  The lunar crescent appears among the stars of Sagittarius, near giant planets Jupiter and Saturn as they approach their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:11 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:59 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

International Space Station Pass (Chicago, Illinois area) begins at 6:02 a.m. CDT low in the south.  It reaches its highest point about 16° up in the southeast at 6:04 a.m. CDT.  It disappears at 6:06 a.m. CDT about 10° up in the east.  Find an unobstructed view to the south and east.  The ISS moves below Venus.

Morning: Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the eastern sky before sunrise.  It continues to step eastward in front of the stars of Leo.  It passes the Lion’s tail, Denebola, is morning, although the separation is nearly 11°.  Your fist extended to arm’s length should fit between the blazing planet and the star. 

In a few mornings, Venus moves into Virgo.  This morning it is 4.0° to the upper right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir on the chart.)

One hour before sunrise Mars is low in the west. The planets are approaching their opposition (Venus – Mars opposition).  When Mars sets in the morning, Venus rises in the east.  After early November, Mars sets before Venus rises.  Mercury begins a morning appearance during early November, joining Venus in the eastern sky.  Mars returns to the eastern sky after sunset this evening.

Detailed morning note: Venus passes 10.9° to the lower right of Denebola (β Leo, m = 2.1). In the starfield closer to Venus, the planet is 3.0° to the lower left of σ Leo and 1.8° to the upper left of τ Leo.  In a few mornings, Venus moves into Virgo.  This morning Venus is 4.0° to the upper right of Nu Virginis (ν Vir, m = 4.0). One hour before sunrise, find the brilliant planet over 22° up in the east-southeast. If you have a clear horizon to the west, you might find bright Mars over 2° above the horizon.  

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

The moon in Sagittarius, October 20-22, 2020.
2020: October 20-22: The moon is visible in the southern sky after sunset. On October 20, it is visible between Antares and Kaus Borealis. October 21, the lunar crescent is between Kaus Borealis and Nunki. On October 22, the moon is near Jupiter and Saturn.

Evening: The sun is now setting for Chicago before 6 p.m. CDT.  When does it set before 6 p.m. at your location?

Bright Mars appears in the eastern sky after sunset, while Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest.  The crescent moon that is 5.2 days after the New moon phase and 33% illuminated appears in Sagittarius to the west (right) of Jupiter and Saturn.  The moon is between Kaus Borealis and Nunki. Because of the moon’s brightness and their proximity to the horizon, use a binocular to see the starfields with the moon and planets.

Mars is retrograding among the dim stars of Pisces.  This motion is an illusion as our planet passed the Red Planet (opposition) last week and pulls away. (See our Mars summary for October here.)

The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.0°.  Jupiter continues to inch toward Saturn for the Great Conjunction of 2020. (See the starry background for Jupiter and Saturn here.)

For the evening planets, use a binocular each clear evening to spot the planets’ positions compared to the starry background.

Detailed evening note:One hour after sunset, the crescent moon (5.2d, 33%), nearly 20° up in the south-southwest, is over 10° to the lower right of Jupiter.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.0°.  Look carefully at the moon’s location in Sagittarius.  It is nearly between Kaus Borealis and Nunki (σ Sgr) and 1.7° to the upper right of Phi Sagittarii (φ Sgr).  In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr), while Jupiter is 3.7° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 0.8° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  An hour later, Mars is 25.0° up in the east-southeast.  It continues to retrograde in Pisces.  This evening it is 1.0° to the lower left of 80 Psc and 2.0° to the upper right of 89 Psc – slightly to the right of a line that connects the two stars.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

2020, October 20: Morning Star Venus, Evening Lunar Crescent

The moon in Sagittarius, October 20-22, 2020.
2020: October 20-22: The moon is visible in the southern sky after sunset. On October 20, it is visible between Antares and Kaus Borealis. October 21, the lunar crescent is between Kaus Borealis and Nunki. On October 22, the moon is near Jupiter and Saturn.

Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the east-southeast before sunrise.  It is in front of the stars of Leo.  In the evening, the lunar crescent is in the southwest, not far from Jupiter and Saturn that are approaching their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. Bright Mars shines from the evening’s eastern sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:09 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:01 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

Morning: Morning Star Venus continues to gleam in the eastern sky before sunrise.  It is over 11° to the lower right of Denebola – the Tail of Leo.  When you extend your closed fist to arm’s length, then it should cover nearly all the space between the brilliant planet and the star.  Use a binocular to see Venus among the dimmer stars.  Bright Mars is very low in the west.  Early next month, Venus rises as Mars sets, a Venus – Mars opposition.  The planets are on opposite parts of the sky.  What is the last date that you can see them together in the morning sky?  The Red Planet returns to the eastern sky after sunset. See our detailed chart for Venus in October here.

Detailed morning note: One hour before sunrise, Venus is over 22° up in the east-southeast, moving eastward in Leo. Among the stars it is 1.9° below Sigma Leonis (σ Leo) and 2.0° to the upper left of Tau Leonis (τ Leo). Through a telescope, Venus is 13.9” in apparent diameter and 78% illuminated – a morning gibbous. Mars – about 4° up in the west – is 170.8° of ecliptic longitude west of Venus.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Evening: In the south-southwest about an hour after sunset, the crescent moon – 4.2 days after its New moon phase and 23% illuminated – is between Antares – the Heart of the Scorpion – and the Teapot of Sagittarius.  The Teapot, along with the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Sickle of Leo, and many other shapes, is an asterism.  An asterismis group of stars that makes a familiar shape that is often part of a constellation.  Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr) is the star at the top of the Teapot shape.  Use a binocular for a clearer look.  Jupiter and Saturn are farther to the left of the star.  The planets are 6.0° apart.  They are moving eastward compared to the starry background.  During the next few weeks, watch Jupiter dramatically cut the distance to Saturn in a prelude to their Great Conjunction.  Jupiter sets in the southwest at about 11 p.m. and Saturn follows about 30 minutes later. Bright Mars is in the east-southeast among the dim stars of Pisces.  It is retrograding – moving westward compared to the starry background.  This is an illusion from our planet passing Mars.  Opposition was a week ago. The Red Planet is south near midnight and sets in the west before sunrise.

Detailed evening note: One hour after sunset the moon (4.2d, 23%) – nearly 16° up in the south-southwest – is above a line from Antares to Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr, m = 2.8), the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius.  The gaps: Moon – Kaus Borealis, 10.9°; Moon – Antares, 15.9°.  Look carefully for Antares as it is only 6° in altitude in the southwest.  Farther eastward, Jupiter is about 25° up in the south-southwest.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 6.0°.   In the starfield, Jupiter is 3.6° to the lower left of π Sgr and 0.8° to the lower right of 50 Sgr.  Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sgr.  At this hour, Mars is nearly 14° in altitude in the south-southeast, 89.3° of ecliptic longitude east of Jupiter.  An hour later, the Red Planet is nearly 25° up in the east-southeast.  It is left of a line from 80 Psc to 89 Psc.  The planet is 1.2° to the lower left of 80 Psc and 1.8° above 89 Psc. Through a telescope, Mars is 21.8” across.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

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Astronomy

2020, October 6: Mars Closest

Bright Mars makes its closest approach to Earth today. It appears as an overly bright star in the sky.

2020, October 19: Arcturus Helical Rising, 4 Planets

The helical rising of Arcturus
2020, October 19: Look for Arcturus low in the northeast about 45 minutes before sunrise. Follow the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle to the star. Locate a clear horizon and use a binocular.

Arcturus returns to the morning sky – its helical rising.  Morning Star Venus and Mars are visible before sunrise.  Evening planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are visible after sunset.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:08 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:02 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

Morning:  Brilliant Morning Star Venus continues to shine from the eastern sky before sunrise.  Now rising at 4 a.m. CDT, the sparkling planet is less than one-third of the way up in the east-southeast, 2 hours later.  It is stepping through the stars of Leo.  See our detailed chart for Venus in October here.

When Venus rises, Mars is the bright rusty-colored star that is about one-third of the way up in the west-southwest.  It is retrograding – moving westward compared to the starry background – among the dim stars in Pisces.

The star Arcturus is now seen in both the morning sky – low in the east-northeast – about 45 minutes before sunrise. Use a binocular to see it. After sunset, it also appears in the west after sunset.  The curve of the Big Dipper’s handle points to the star.  In the morning the dipper is standing on its handle in the northeastern sky.  In the evening the pattern is low in the northwest, possibly behind the neighbor’s house or the neighborhood trees.

This first morning appearance is known as the heliacal rising.

Detailed morning note: One hour before sunrise, Venus – over 22° in altitude in the east-southeast – is 0.8° to the lower right of Sigma Leonis (σ Leo).  Mars is 5.0° up in the west. Try to find Arcturus low in the east-northeast, 45 minutes before sunrise.  Can you see it without a binocular?  This is the heliacal rising of Arcturus.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

The crescent moon and Antares, October 19, 2020
2020, October 19: The crescent moon (3.2 days after the New moon phase, 14% illuminated) is 4.9° to the upper right of Antares. Look low in the southwest about an hour after sunset.

Evening: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are evening planets.  Mars is visible low in the east as the sky darkens.  As noted above, it is among the stars of Pisces.  The planet is nearly in the sky all night long.  Find it in the south as midnight approaches.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the south after sunset.  Jupiter is brighter than Saturn and nearly the same visual intensity as Mars.  The giant planets are seen against the starry background of eastern Sagittarius.  With a binocular, make observations each clear evening to note their changing positions compared to the stars.  Jupiter is 6.1° to the lower right of dimmer Saturn. (See a chart here.)

As the sky darkens look for the crescent moon that is 3.2 days past the New moon phase and 14% illuminated.  It is 4.9° to the upper right of Antares, the Heart of the Scorpion.

Detailed evening note: One hour after sunset, the Red Planet is nearly 13° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon.  Saturn is nearly 27° up in the south and 6.1° to the upper left of bright Jupiter.  In the starfield, Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr).  Jupiter is 3.5° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 0.9° to the lower right of Sagittarii (50 Sgr). (See a chart here.)  The moon (3.2 days after the New moon phase, 14% illimunated) – over 10° in altitude in the southwest – is 4.9° to the upper right of Antares.  Two hours after sunset, Mars is nearly 24° up in the east-southeast.  It has nearly the same altitude as Saturn, now in the south-southwest. The Red Planet is 2.5° to the lower right of Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) to the upper left of 89 Piscium (89 Psc), and 1.5° to the lower left of 80 Piscium (80 Psc).

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

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2020, October 18: Crescent Moon in West

Moon and Antares, October 18, 2020
2020, October 18: Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon (2.2 days after the New moon phase and 7% illuminated) is low in the southwest, nearly 15° to the right of Antares – the Heart of the Scorpion.

The crescent moon is low in the west about 30 minutes after sunset near the star Antares.  Four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible during the night.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:07 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:04 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

Morning: Brilliant Venus and bright Mars continue to separate in the morning sky.  Venus rises in the east at about 4 a.m. CDT.  As morning twilight begins and grows brighter, the brilliant planet rises higher in the east and Mars, in the sky nearly all night, is low in the west.  What is the last date you see them together?  Mars sets as Venus rises (Venus – Mars opposition) on November 9.  Depending on the obstructions – trees, houses, or buildings – where you live and the clouds that are present near the horizon, you may be able to follow them until a few mornings before opposition. Both planets can be seen when near the horizon because of their brightness. Venus continues to step eastward in Leo.  See a detailed chart here.

Detailed morning note: Venus is 0.7° to the upper right of σ Leo.  One hour before sunrise, Venus is over 23° up in the east-southeast. At this time, Mars (m = −2.5) is 6.0° in altitude above the western horizon.  Forty-five minutes before sunrise, begin looking for Arcturus, low in the east-northeast.  Use a binocular.

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Evening:  Begin looking for the moon low in the south-southwest about 30 minutes after sunset.  Find a clear horizon.  The star Antares – the Heart of the Scorpion – is at about the same altitude as the lunar crescent, but about 15° to the left.  Your fist extended to arm’s length, covers about 10°, from the pinky finger to the thumb knuckle.  As the sky darkens further, you should be able to pick out the crescent moon and the star without optical help.  Moving farther south along the horizon, Jupiter and Saturn are less than one-third of the way up in the sky.  They are 6.2° apart.  Both planets are moving slowly eastward compared to the background stars in Sagittarius.  Jupiter is slowly overtaking the Ringed Wonder and catches it on December 21, 2020.  Bright Mars is in the eastern sky among the dim stars of Pisces.  It is retrograding, moving westward compared to the stars, in Pisces – an illusion as Earth passes the outer planets.  Use a binocular to make nightly observations of the planets compared to the starry background.

Detailed evening note: One hour after sunset, the moon (2.2 days after the New moon phase, 7% illuminated) is about 5° in altitude in the west-southwest and nearly 15° to the right of Antares (α Sco, m = 1.0).  Farther eastward, Jupiter is over 25° up in the south, with Saturn 6.2° to its upper left.  Both planets are moving eastward in Sagittarius.  In the starfield, Jupiter is 3.5° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarii (π Sgr) and 1.0° to the lower right of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr).  Saturn is 1.8° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr). Now it seems that a race is underway for Jupiter to catch up to and pass Saturn before the pair disappears into evening twilight.  Mars is 12° up in the east-southeast.  An hour later, the Red Planet is over 23° in altitude. This evening it is to the right of an imaginary line that connects Zeta Piscium (ζ Psc) and 89 Piscium (89 Psc).  The planet is 2.5° to the lower right of ζ Psc and 1.6° to the upper left of 89 Psc.  Additionally, Mars is 1.7° to the lower left of 80 Piscium (80 Psc, m =5.5) and 4.1° below Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc, m = 4.2).  Use a binocular to spot the planet in the dim starfield.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

2020, October 17: Moon Returns to Evening Sky

The crescent moon, October 17, 2020.
2020, October 17: Thirty minutes after sunset, the thin crescent moon is visible low in the west-southwest.

A New moon is visible low in the western sky after sunset.  Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible during the night.  Jupiter continues to close the gap to Saturn before the Great Conjunction of 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:06 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:05 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in different locations.

Morning: An hour before sunrise brilliant Venus is visible less than one-third of the way up in the sky in the east-southeast.  The planet is stepping eastward in front of the stars of Leo, near three dimmer stars Chi Leonis (χ Leo), Sigma Leonis (σ Leo) and Iota Leonis (ι Leo).  Use a binocular to find Venus with the stars.  At this time, bright Mars is low in the west.

Spica rises at sunrise this morning – its Cosmic Rising – while Arcturus is at its solar conjunction today, as the sun and star share the same celestial longitude.  It’s hardly a conjunction in the traditional sense.  Arcturus is over 30° north of the sun.

Detailed morning note: One hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus is over 23° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon. Moving eastward in Leo, the brilliant planet is 2.4° below χ Leo, 1.8° to the upper right of σ Leo, and 5.0° to the lower right of ι Leo.  While bright, Mars is about 7° up in the west.  How much longer can you see it at this time interval before sunrise?

See our summary about Venus during October 2020 and the feature article  about Venus as a Morning Star.

Evening:  In the evening, look for the crescent moon low in the west-southwest, 30 minutes after sunset.  Find a good location to view the natural horizon.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the south, 6.3° apart.  Jupiter continues to slowly close the gap to the Ringed Wonder. Use a binocular to view Jupiter and Saturn against the starfield of eastern Sagittarius.  Mars – just past its opposition with the sun – continues to retrograde in Pisces.  The planet climbs into the eastern sky as the night progresses.  Find it in the western sky tomorrow morning.

Detailed evening note: Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon (1.2d, 3%) is nearly 4° up in the west-southwest. Saturn is 90° east of the sun.  One hour after sunset, it is 27° up in the south, now past the meridian at this time interval.  The Ringed Wonder is 6.3° to the upper left of Jupiter (m = −2.2).  In the starfield, Jupiter is 3.3° to the lower left of π Sgr and 1.1° to the lower right of 50 Sgr.  Saturn is 1.7° to the lower left of 56 Sgr. An hour later, Mars is over 22° up in the east-southeast.  ζ Psc, Mars, and 89 Psc are in a line.  Mars is 2.5° to the lower right of ζ Psc and 1.5° to the upper left of 89 Psc.

For more about the Great Conjunction, read our feature article. This is the closest Jupiter – Saturn conjunction since 1623.

Read more about the planets during October.

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