Jupiter-Saturn From El Progresso

Summer gives skygazers a nice opportunity to watch an approaching nighttime spectacle unfold. In mid-summer you can find brilliant Jupiter with fainter Saturn down and to Jupiter's left in the southern sky around 9 PM.

The following illustrations depict the sky and times for El Progresso, Honduras, but the ensuing planetary conjunction is visible for all observers worldwide in 2020 but from a slightly different perspective. Note that, while Pluto and Neptune are "there" as shown, because they're so faint you won't see them naked eye in the real sky.

Over the months the pair will have moved closer to each other and toward the southwest until December 21, when they appear nearly to touch each other.

GET STARTED: FIND TWO PLANETS

To help find the two biggest planets, look near the moon on August 1, 2020, when it will join the pair of planets to form a nice triangle. Because the two planets are nearly opposite the sun, they are also very bright. Just as we see a full moon when it's opposite the sun, we're now seeing nearly "full Jupiter" and "full Saturn". (Note: Jupiter and Saturn are depicted here as being larger than the moon to indicate their relative brightness to the stars, not to indicate their size.)

Again, over the months the planets will get closer together as the pair glides low toward the southwest horizon at civil twilight. To find the planets in December, look for a very thin (<7% illuminated) moon on December 16. Saturn is stacked on Jupiter, both just above the crescent moon.

DECEMBER 21: CONJUNCTION ON THE SOLSTICE

Just after sunset on December 21, 2020, the pair are visible toward the southwest in the direction the sun went down. (Again, though it's in the illustration, Neptune is too faint to be seen in twilight.)

The ringed planet Saturn and giant Jupiter with its four prominent moons will be visible side-by-side in a telescope's eyepiece. Even a good pair of binoculars should be sufficient to discern Jupiter's larger Galilean moons, and Saturn may appear non-circular because of its rings. A good scope will yield an astronomers dream view--Jupiter and Saturn plus some of their moons in the same field of view. Two giant planets in one eyepiece!

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