Welcome to the Almanac’s Sky Watch for October 2020. Mars is at its most visible and brightest. Jupiter and Saturn pair up at nightfall from October 21 to 23. And we’ll enjoy two Full Moons in October—including a Halloween Blue Moon! See Bob Berman’s highlights of the monthly night sky.
Sky Watch October 2020
by Bob Berman, as featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac
The Month of Mars
During the month of October, the planet Mars will reach an atypically brilliant magnitude—2.6—outshining every star and planet, even Jupiter!
On the 13th, Mars reaches opposition, meaning Earth passed between it and the Sun.
Look east at sunrise for a red-orange dancing dot. Mars will remain visible to the naked eye all night, setting in the west before dawn.
Nothing nearby compares. Mars won’t appear this big and bright again for 15 years.
Image: Hubble Space Telescope photo of Mars taken when the planet was 50 million miles from Earth on May 12, 2016. Credits: NASA, ESA.
Jupiter and Saturn Paired at Night
Jupiter and Saturn are pulling closer together at nightfall. Look south (towards the constellation Sagittarius).
From October 21 to 23, the waxing Moon passes between the two gas giants. Look south to southwest at nightfall. Use the Moon to find Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is very bright, 13 times brighter than Saturn so look for Jupiter first. Then look to your east (and a little north) of Jupiter for Saturn, which only appears 6 degrees away. (Think of the Moon’s diameter as ½ degree and that should help you gauge the distance.)
Both the Ringed Planet and the Giant Planet will travel westward across the sky—Saturn following Jupiter—until they set into the late evening.
Jupiter will catch up to Saturn on December 21, 2020 for the eagerly awaited conjunction—the closest Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in 397 years!
See the Almanac Planet Rise and Set Calculator for your zip code.
Venus, Uranus, Mercury
- Venus, the “morning star,” will continue to shine at dawn through the rest of the year. Before dawn on the 13th and 14th, Venus meets the crescent Moon in Leo.
- Uranus comes into opposition on Halloween, an easy green binocular target in eastern Pisces, far to the left of Mars. At magnitude 5.7, it can be faintly glimpsed with the naked eye in rural locations.
- Mercury is not visible this month, being too close to the Sun’s glare.
A Halloween Blue Moon
Finally, this October brings us TWO full Moons: the full Harvest Moon on Thursday, October 1 AND the full Hunter’s Moon on Saturday, October 31. That’s right—we’ll have a full Moon on Halloween night this year! And because it’s the second Moon in a month, it’s also popularily called a Bue Moon. This is the only two-full-moon month in 2020!