Tag: sky watching

2020, May 24: Morning Planets, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, May 24, 2020
2020, May 24: Jupiter and Saturn are 4.7° apart as they shine from the southern skies. Mars is 40° to the east of Jupiter. It appears in the southeast.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars shine in the sky before sunrise today.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

This morning the three morning planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – appear in the sky from southeast to south. Bright Jupiter is about one-quarter of the way up in the south. This giant planet is 4.7° to the right of dimmer Saturn.

Both planets are retrograding. They appear to move westward compared to the starry back ground. During the next several weeks, watch them separate. Later this year, Jupiter passes Saturn in a Great Conjunction.

Meanwhile, Mars is in the southeast. It continues to move way from Jupiter and Saturn. This morning it is over 40° from Jupiter.

Next month, Venus joins this planetary trio.

For more details about the morning planets, read more here.

For our daily semi-technical description of May’s planet events, click here.

2020, May 23: Venus and Mercury

Venus, Mercury and Elnath, May 23, 2020
2020, May 23: Brilliant Venus appears with Mercury and Elnath in the evening sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Expecting to see the moon with Venus, storm clouds prevented the view. When the sky cleared, the moon had set. Venus sparkled low in the west-northwest. In the image above, Venus, Mercury, and Elnath are grouped into a pretty triangle. Mercury is 3.5° to the upper left of Venus and 3.1° to the lower left of Elnath The Venus- Elnath gap is 4.2°.

Venus is rapidly leaving the evening sky. In a few evenings it no longer appears there. After mid-June, it appears low in the east-northeast before sunrise.

Mercury is entering the evening sky for a brief appearance.

Here’s more about Mercury in the evening sky.

Read this article for more about Venus as an Evening Star.

Looking ahead, here’s the Venus as a Morning Star, 2020-2021, article.

2020, May 22: Venus and Mercury in the Evening Sky

Venus, Mercury, and the star Elnath in the evening sky, May 22, 2020
2020, May 22: Venus, Mercury, and Elnath make a compact triangle. Venus is 1.6° to the lower right of Mercury; Venus is 3.8° below Elnath; and the Mercury – Elnath gap is 3.4°.

Mercury Joins Venus in the Evening Sky

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

This evening Mercury appears 1.6° to the upper left of brilliant Evening Star Venus. Mercury continues to move beyond Venus. Venus is leaving the evening sky as it moves between our planet Earth and the sun on June 3.

Mercury is beginning its short evening journey before it heads to the morning sky in July where it joins four bright morning planets for an infrequent opportunity to see the five naked-eye planets simultaneously.

The star Elnath – the Northern Horn of Taurus – 3.8° above Venus.

The moon enters the scene tomorrow evening.

Here’s more about Mercury in the evening sky.

Read this article for more about Venus as an Evening Star.

Looking ahead, here’s the Venus as a Morning Star, 2020-2021, article

2020, July: Venus Moves Through Taurus

Venus in Taurus 2020
2020, July: Venus in the Hyades. Venus passes Aldebaran July 12. It moves toward Zeta Tauri during the month.

As a brilliant Morning Star, Venus passes through the Hyades during July 2020. Use a binocular to track the planet thorugh the starfield.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Read this article, for more about Venus as a Morning Star

Click here for our semi-technical summary of Venus as a Morning Star.

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Click through the images of Venus during July 2020.  Bookmark this page to return for new photos in the gallery.

During July and early August, Venus moves through Taurus – from the Hyades to Zeta Tauri, the Bull’s Southern horn. As Venus moves through the star cluster, note the planet’s position each morning compared to the starfield. The Hyades star cluster, with Aldebaran, appears to make a letter “V” in the sky. While in the eastern sky the letter is on one side.  Aldebaran is at the top of one side of the “V.”  Epsilon Tauri marks the top of the other side.

While in the period of greatest brightness, Venus maintains nearly consistent apparent brightness to our unaided eyes, for most of the interval, diminishing slightly during early August.

In the notes that follow, the position of the planet is noted compared to the background stars. Use the chart above to look for Venus each clear morning. A binocular is helpful.  Unless noted, each observation is for one hour before sunrise.

The month begins with Venus above the V shape. About an hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast.  It is to the upper right of Delta 1 Tauri. (See the chart above.) Use a binocular to see the starfield with Venus.  During the early days of the month, Venus moves closer to Delta 1.  Venus passes the star on July 4.

On July 6, Venus is inside the “V.” 

Beginning July 7, Venus is near Delta 2 Tauri.  Note that Venus is along a line that includes Aldebaran, Delta1 and Delta 2.

On July 10 and July 11, notice that Venus passes between Aldebaran and Epsilon Tauri. 

Venus passes to the upper left of Aldebaran on July 12.

On July 14, Jupiter is at opposition.  Our planet Earth is between the Giant Planet and the sun.  Jupiter and the sun are in opposite parts of the sky.  Jupiter rises in the southeast at sunset, appears to move across the sky during the night, and sets in the southeast at sunrise. While Venus is in the east-northeast, Jupiter, along with Saturn, is in the southwest.


Venus and the moon, July 17, 2020
2020, July 17: The moon appears 3.2° from Venus. The brilliant planet is 3.2° from Aldebaran.

The moon joins the scene on July 17.  In the crescent phase, the moon is 26.1 days past its New phase and is only 12% illuminated.  The lunar crescent and Aldebaran are about the same distance from Venus.  The moon is the left of Venus while Aldebaran is to the upper right.  This is a photographer’s opportunity to capture a classic artist’s scene of the moon and Venus in the sky.

This date also marks the last morning of Venus’ interval of greatest brightness.  The planet continues to sparkle in the morning sky, but just not as bright as the past several mornings.

Start looking for the five naked eye planets with the crescent moon. The optimal view is on the morning of July 19.

See the moon and 5 planets, July 19, 2020
2020, July 19: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, see the five naked eye planets with the crescent moon.

This is the optimal morning to see five planets and the lunar crescent.  Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury is low in the east-northeast. The moon is to the speedy planet’s left.  Brilliant Venus is near Aldebaran in the east.  Reddish Mars is in the south-southeast.  Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southwest.  For those wanting more details see the daily note that follows:

  • July 19: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, see the five naked eye planets with the crescent moon. Brilliant Venus is 21° up in the east, 4.5° to the lower left of Aldebaran. The moon (28.1d, 2%) is about 5° up in the east-northeast, 5.0° to the left of Mercury (m = 0.8). The Venus – moon gap is 27°. Mars is over 47° in altitude in the south-southeast. Jupiter – five days past its opposition – and Saturn, one day before its opposition, are in the southwest. Jupiter is about 4° in altitude and Saturn is 7.0° to Jupiter’s upper left. The gap between the moon and Jupiter is over 170° of ecliptic longitude. Dimmer Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are scattered along the ecliptic between Venus and Jupiter. During the next few mornings five planets are visible – along with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto with optical assistance – but without the moon. Additionally, Jupiter is quickly leaving the sky. On successive mornings, look 3-4 minutes earlier each day. You may catch all of them in the sky until about July 25. Find clear horizons to view Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter.

On July 20, Venus gleams in the eastern morning sky.  Start looking for Betelgeuse low in the eastern sky, to the left of the east mark. Venus is high above the star. Orion’s other shoulder, Bellatrix is higher in the east. During the next week, begin looking for Rigel, low in the sky, about 15° to the right of the east cardinal point. To view these stars, find a clear horizon. Saturn is at opposition, nearly 14° up in the southwest at this time interval. It is 7.0° to the upper left of bright Jupiter. This evening, Saturn rises at sunset, crosses the meridian around local midnight, and sets at sunrise tomorrow morning.

Venus passes Zeti Tauri
Venus moves in and passes Zeta Tauri.

Late in the month Venus begins to approach the Zeta Tauri, the Southern Horn of Taurus  The closest approach occurs on August 2.

Next, Venus moves into Gemini


2020, June 3: Venus at Inferior Conjunction


Transit of Venus, 2012
2012, June 5: Venus passes between Earth and the sun. It was observed to make a rare solar transit. The dark circle in front of the sun is the planet Venus.  This occurred at the inferior conjunction of Venus.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

At inferior conjunction, faster moving Venus moves between Earth and the sun. It rapidly moves into the morning sky. Because Venus’ orbit is tilted slightly compared to the sun, it does not pass directly in front of the sun. At this inferior conjunction, Venus is about 0.5° above the sun. In 2012, Venus passed precisely between the earth and sun as is seen in the image above. The dark circle is the planet Venus.

Venus at inferior conjunction, June 3, 2020
2020, June 3: Venus passes between Earth and Sun – inferior conjunction – and begins to move into the morning sky when it rises before sunrise.

At this inferior conjunction on June 3, 2020, Venus is 26.8 million miles away; that’s about 111 times farther away than the moon. At this time, Venus is 67 million miles from the sun, about at its average solar distance. When we see the sun in the south, our clocks read noon. The opposite direction is midnight. We do not see the sun in the sky at midnight, and Venus does not appear in that direction.

The line then divides the morning sky from the evening sky. Venus is moving toward the morning section of the diagram as it revolves around the sun faster than Earth. It passes our planet and moves away.

See more about Venus as a Morning Star in 2020-2021.

2020-2021: Venus as a Morning Star, The Diagram

Venus rising diagram
This chart shows the rising time difference between Venus rising and sunrise. The time differences for other planets and bright stars are included. The rising time difference for the moon is displayed with circles. The setting times of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are shown as well.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

The chart above, calculated from data from the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois, shows the difference in rising time between Venus (green line) and the sun during the planet’s morning apparition. The three phases of twilight are included.   Other bright stars that appear near the ecliptic are graphed as well as the time differences for the other bright planets. The moon’s rising time differences are displayed as circles. All this activity occurs in the eastern sky. The setting time differences (circles) for Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are included as well. When the planets set in the west at sunrise, they are at opposition. For Jupiter, this occurs on July 14, 2020, followed by Saturn six days later. Mars’ opposition occurs on October 13, 2020. Every date after their opposition dates the planets set in the west before sunrise until they disappear from the top of the chart, setting over 5 hours before sunrise.

When the Venus line crosses the lines of other objects, they rise at the same time. A conjunction occurs near the intersection. It is important to note that because two objects rise at the same time, they may not appear close together in the sky. While Antares, Aldebaran, and Pollux generally lie near the ecliptic, the conjunctions with planets can have gaps of several degrees. As an extreme example, Sirius and Venus rise within a few minutes of each other on September 15, 2020. Venus rises in the east-northeast and Sirius in the east-southeast. They are over 40° apart. Objects are selected for the graph that appear near the ecliptic. For this reason, Sirius is not graphed.

If a moon circle is displayed near one of the rising lines, a conjunction may occur on that date, or on the day before or day after the date the moon and that object are plotted together. Notes are on the graph to indicate the dates when the moon is near Venus, along with their angular separations. The closest grouping occurs on June 19, 2020, when they are separated by 1.0°. While they are low in the sky, the scene is that of a classic artist’s celestial painting. Other groupings occur when the moon is higher in a darker sky. Details are in the daily notes.

With the focus on Venus, conjunctions with stars are indicated with boxes on the Venus curve. The greatest morning (west) elongations of Venus and Mercury are indicated with yellow triangles and “GE” labels.

The midpoint (July 8) of the interval of Venus’ greatest brightness is marked with a yellow diamond shape and the “GB” label. While not a formal designation, the change in apparent magnitude is hardly distinguishable to the unaided eye during this period that runs from June 29 through July 17. The midpoint is near the date of the planet’s greatest illuminated extent (July 10). This occurs when the illuminated portion of the planet covers the largest area of the sky. This means the planet is very bright, at its theoretical maximum brightness. For a technical explanation, see https:/tinyurl.com/venus-greatest-illuminated.

For more about Venus as a Morning Star 2020-2021.

2020, June: Brilliant Venus Emerges Into the Morning Sky

Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky, July 21, 2012
2012, July 21: Brilliant Venus, Jupiter, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades rise into the morning sky.

After its inferior conjunction, brilliant morning star Venus appears in the morning sky, low in the east-northeast.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

After its inferior conjunction, Venus pops into the morning sky. It rises five minutes earlier each morning and it is visible low in the east-northeast. Be sure to view it with the moon on June 19. Continue to watch it as it appears higher in the sky at the same time each morning and Aldebaran and the Hyades appear through the morning twilight. At month’s end it begins an interval of its greatest brightness. Here’s what to look for:

Venus and the moon, June 19, 2020
2020, June 19: The moon makes its closest pass with Venus. They are 1.0° apart.
  • June 19: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, the old moon (27.8d, 4%), about 4° up in the east-northeast, is 1.0° to the lower left of Venus. Find a clear horizon to view the pair.
  • June 21: The planet continues to rise earlier. On this morning, Venus rises at Nautical Twilight, when the sun is 12° below the horizon. At this time sky is distinguishable from the ground. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, the planet is about 4° up in the east-northeast.
Venus and Aldebaran, June 26, 2020
2020, June 26: Brilliant Venus is 4.9° to the upper right of Aldebaran and 9.2° below Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster.
  • June 26: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus is about 8° up in the east-northeast. This brilliant planet is 4.9° to the upper right of Aldebaran and 9.2° below Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster. A binocular helps seeing the star cluster and Aldebaran.
  • June 29: During the next 18 mornings, Venus displays its greatest brightness. While the photometric brightness increases, your eye likely does not see any difference in the visual intensity of the planet. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus – over 10° in altitude in the east-northeast – is 4.6° to the upper right of Aldebaran. Use a binocular to see the star. Four naked eye planets – Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – are scattered across the sky along 131° of the ecliptic. Dimmer Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are in the sky between Venus and Jupiter as well.

Read more about Venus as a Morning Star during 2020-2021.

2020-2021: Brilliant Planet Venus as a Morning Star

Venus and the moon, June 29, 2020.
2020, June 19: The moon is 1.0° to the lower left Venus during early morning twilight.

Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines brightly in the morning sky during 2020 and early 2021.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Click here for our semi-technical article about the apparition of Venus during 2020-2021.

Bookmark this page and check back frequently for images and updates.

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Slideshow of Venus images


Venus makes a grand entrance into the morning sky after its inferior conjunction on June 3, 2020, at 12:44 p.m. CDT. It races into the morning sky and a week after conjunction it rises at Civil Twilight, 32 minutes before sunrise. After mid-June, Venus gleams from low in the east-northeast sky during mid-twilight. By early July, Venus is at its greatest brightness, rises before the beginning of twilight, and appears higher in the sky as sunrise approaches.

During July, Venus moves through the Hyades, with an Aldebaran conjunction on July 12. Watch the planet move through the star cluster with a binocular, during several mornings leading up to the Venus – Aldebaran conjunction.

On July 19, the lunar crescent and five planets are simultaneously spread across the sky with Jupiter low in the western sky and Mercury low in the eastern sky. Venus, Mars, and Saturn are scattered between them.

Other highlights of the Venus apparition include a grouping with the Beehive cluster in mid-September that includes the crescent moon on September 14; two mornings in October when Venus is about 0.5° from Regulus; a widely spaced Venus – Spica conjunction during mid-November; and an extremely close conjunction with Beta Scorpii in December. Mercury makes an appearance during November, but the gaps with Venus are very wide. At the end of the apparition, Venus passes Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter. Although they are near the sun, attempt to view the Venus – Jupiter Epoch (close) Conjunction during the day.

Venus reaches its superior conjunction on March 26, 2021, then slowly moves into the evening sky.

2020, May 15: Brilliant Evening Star Makes Its Last Stand

Venus and Elnath, May 15, 2020
2020, May 15: Venus is 1.8° to the lower left of Elnath.

Brilliant Evening Star Venus is making its last stand in the evening sky for 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Venus is turning toward the sun and its inferior conjunction on June 3, 2020. The brilliant planet is quickly leaving the evening sky, appearing lower each night at the same time. By mid-June, it’ll shine brightly from the low in the east-northeast before sunrise.

This evening Venus is 1.8° to the lower left of Elnath, the Northern Horn of Taurus.

On May 19, look for Mercury, below Venus. The moon joins the scene on May 23.

Read this article for more about Venus as an Evening Star.

2020, May 13: Moon and Bright Morning Planets

The moon with Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, May 13, 2020
2020: May 13: The gibbous moon appears 8.7° to the lower left of Saturn. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 4.7°.

The gibbous moon appears in the morning planet parade with Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Through a thin veil of clouds, the gibbous moon (overexposed in the image) is 8.7° to the lower left of Saturn. Jupiter is inching eastward among the stars toward its Great Conjunction with Saturn on December 21, 2020. This morning they are 4.7° apart.

Saturn is retrograding, appearing to move west among the stars. Jupiter’s retrograde begins tomorrow.

Mars shines from the southeast. This morning it is nearly 33° from Jupiter. Mars continues to march away from Jupiter and Saturn.

For more details about the morning planets, read more here.

For our daily semi-technical description of May’s planet events, click here.