Hail mighty Jupiter as it appears in the early morning sky, fresh from its conjunction with the Sun. As Jupiter begins its climb into the pre-dawn sky, it will add to the early morning planetary parade causing some interesting planetary alignments. On the morning of the 30th, Jupiter and Venus will sit side by side with less than ½ degree separation.
Saturn and Mars also have a close pairing this month. Looking east southeast on the 5th, about an hour before sunrise, Mars and Saturn are separated by a scant 24 minutes of arc which is slightly less than one Moon diameter. Mars at magnitude +1.0 and Saturn at magnitude +0.9 are easily naked eye objects and don’t really need binoculars. In fact, binoculars can’t do justice to the widely separated alignment of the four early morning planets. Brilliant Venus continues to slowly sink toward the horizon passing by ascending Jupiter on the 30th.
The Moon will be new on the 1st, first quarter on the 9th, full on the 16th, and last quarter on the 23rd. The Moon spends this month without passing by any planets. However, the planets themselves make up for the lack of lunar visits by putting on some awesome displays of their own. Look to the southeast on the morning of the 5th, about 45 minutes before sunrise to see Venus, Mars and Saturn hanging just above the horizon. On the 18th, looking east southeast, about 45 minutes before sunrise, there will be a grand alignment of four planets. From lower left to upper right, we’ll see Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn.
Turning your attention to the early evening skies and looking west-northwest on the 29th, about 45 minutes after sunset, little Mercury appears in the early evening sky, a few degrees above the horizon, keeping company with the Pleiades open star cluster.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions there will not be a first Saturday star party at the Etscorn Campus Observatory this month.
New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club