Categories: Sky Reports
Three planets grace the evening sky: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Mars is brighter than any star in the evening sky, and it’s almost half-way up the eastern sky. Many early peoples associated its reddish color with blood and war. The nearly-full moon is 5° below Mars on Wednesday the 25th.
At the same time Jupiter is low in the southwest. Jupiter is twice as bright as Mars and it sets before 9 p.m.
A very short distance to the upper left of Jupiter is the distant planet Saturn, which is as bright as a bright star. The distance between these two planets has been decreasing for months. Both planets are traveling eastward against the background of stars, but Jupiter is moving faster because it is closer to the sun and feels the pull of the sun’s gravity more. The result is that Jupiter is approaching Saturn – as seen from earth, not in actual space – and it will pass very close to Saturn in less than one month. Their separation is 3° on the 23rd but only 2-1/3° on the 29th. You can easily see both planets together in binoculars and next month you’ll see them together in a wide-angle telescope. Stay tuned.
Once Jupiter and Saturn set Mars is the sole bright planet until it sets at 3 a.m., and then the sky is planet-less until Venus rises at 5 a.m. Venus is brighter than anything else in the night sky except the moon. Venus has been the reliable “morning star” since June, but it’s slowly leaving us as it moves behind the sun. It will still be around the rest of the year, but it rises later and is slightly lower each morning as it moves more nearly in line with the sun.
People have seen Comet ATLAS c/2020 M3 with binoculars, but it’s huge and diffuse so an extremely dark sky is a must. Look after 9 p.m. Bright moonlight will interfere. As with all comets, Google its full name for maps and details.
Harder to locate is Comet Erasmus C/2020 S3, which is a short distance to the right of Venus. It was discovered only two months ago. It too is predicted to be within the range of binoculars, but the approaching sunrise will make it a challenge and you’ll need a very low horizon.
Next week: an eclipse of the moon you probably won’t see, on the 30th.
Photo Credit: Stellarium
The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate, and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at www.stellarvistaobservatory.org. Send questions and comments to