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 3, look for the brilliant planet about 4 degrees to the left of the galaxy. Holding a binocular steady, put Venus on the lower left side of the view. A cloudy oval with a starlike center, appears to the upper right of the view.
On March 7, brilliant Venus appears to the right of Uranus. Uranus’ brightness is at the limit of human eyesight. Through a binocular, it appears as a bluish star. Put Venus to the right side of the binocular’s view. Uranus will appear to the left of Venus left of center of the view.
For more details about seeing the galaxy and the planet Uranus, see the daily notes that follow that match the dates on the chart above.
March 3: One hour after sunset brilliant Venus is over 30° in altitude in the west-southwest. It passes 4° to the lower left of M74 (NGC 628, m = 8.8, 8’ apparent size). Mallas in The Messier Album, describes the view, “This is a difficult galaxy for a 4” refractor, but it is easily seen in the 10 x 40 finder. A casual observer might miss this object completely, for the central condensation is starlike and the outer parts have very low surface brightness” (p. 146). Also look for Uranus, 5.3° to the upper left of Venus.
March 4: One hour after sunset, Venus is over 30° up in the west-southwest. It moves into Aries, 4.3° to the lower right of Uranus.
March 5: One hour after sunset, brilliant Venus is over 30° up in the west-southwest, 3.5° to the lower right of Uranus. Through a telescope, Venus is 61% illuminated – an evening gibbous – and 20” across.
March 6: One hour after sunset, the bright moon (12.4d, 90%), nearly 50° up in the east-southeast is in the middle of Cancer’s dim stars nearly midway from Pollux and Regulus (α Leo, m =1.3). At the same time, Venus is over 30° up in the west, 2.7° to the lower right of Uranus.
March 7: One hour after sunset, brilliant Venus is over one-third of the way up in the west. It is 2.3° to the right of Uranus.
March 8: Daylight Saving Time begins today. One hour after sunset, Venus (m = −4.4) over 30° up in the west, is 2.2° to the upper right of Uranus and 5.4° to the lower left of Gamma Arietis (γ Ari, m = 3.9).
March 9: One hour after sunset, Venus is 32° in altitude, 2.6° to the upper right of Uranus. Brilliant Venus passes 6.7° to the lower left of Beta Arietis (β Ari, m = 2.6).
March 10: In the evening, one hour after sunset, brilliant Venus is over 32° up in the west and 3.3° to the upper right of Uranus. Through a telescope, Venus is 58% illuminated and 20” across. Three hours after sunset (about 10 p.m. CDT), the moon (16.5d, 97%) is nearly 16° up in the east-southeast. It is 2.2° to the lower left of Gamma Virginis (γ Vir, m = 3.4).
March 11: In the evening – one hour after sunset – brilliant Venus is over 32° up in the west, 4.1° to the upper right of Uranus and near the three bright stars of Aries.
Venus appears near the moon and the Pleiades star cluster on the evening of March 28, 2020.
Start looking for Venus and the moon about an hour after sunset. As the sky darkens further, the Pleiades star cluster is fully revealed. The trio makes a pretty triangle. By the end of evening twilight, about 90 minutes after sunset, the sky is fully dark naturally and the grouping sparkles in the western sky.
The crescent moon is only 18% illuminated. It is only 4.7 days past its New phase.
The star Aldebaran, the brightest in Taurus, appears to the upper left of the grouping.
Use tripod-camera to capture the triple grouping. Exposures from 1-10 seconds will capture earthshine on the moon. Reflected sunlight from Earth gently illuminates the night portion of the moon.
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.