Mark your calendars for September 24 and 25 when Jupiter and Saturn hover due south at 8:30 p.m. and are joined by the Moon for a beautiful sight. See more details in Bob Berman’s Sky Watch for September 2020.
Sky Watch September 2020
by Bob Berman, as featured in The 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac
Wonders abound! It’s an easy month for viewing the bright planets: three shine brightly in the early evening sky. No need to stay up late!
Jupiter and Saturn Grow Nearer
Look South. Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky (besides our Moon), outshining all of the stars. You can’t miss it. Jupiter is also at its highest around nightfall/dusk which makes it an easy sight—with no problems trying to look near the horizon or around buildings.
Saturn is just to the east of Jupiter. Saturn is not as bright as Jupiter but it equals all of the stars nearby. The two planets will travel together westward across the sky from nightfall until well after midnight. See planet rise/set times.
Mark your calendars for the nights of September 24 and 25.
The Moon will go past Jupiter and then Saturn. The Moon is near its First Quarter phase which is one of the best times to view. This is the Moon that’s at its highest at sunset just around dinner time. In addition, you’ll be able to see the Moon’s shadows and features better. (It’s more challenging during a full Moon when it appears as a blinding orb.) See my tips on viewing the Quarter Moon.)
First, look for the Moon as a pointer.
- On Thursday, the 24th, that’s Jupiter which appears right above the Moon.
- On Friday, the 25th, that’s Saturn which appears right above the Moon, with Jupiter further to the west.
If you have a telescope, this is a good opportunity to see Jupiter’s four major moons and Saturn’s glorious rings.
Notice how near the two giant gas planets appear. Keep your eye on this duo as their gap narrows in preparation for their amazing and historic “Great Conjunction” in 3 months before 2020 ends!
Mars Brightening To Equal Jupiter
Get ready for Mars which brightens every day. In Pisces, Mars rises at 8:00 P.M. by the month’s end, when the red planet will brighten spectacularly to magnitude –2, equaling Jupiter! This is Mars at its best over a two-year period.
If you start by looking South at the Moon and Jupiter, turn toward your eastern horizon (sunrise direction) to see the Red Planet in early evening. Mars will shine bright all night. See your planet rise/set times.
Keep you eye on Mars. The Red Planet will keep brightening until October 13 when Earth passes between it and the Sun! At that time, it will be the brightest planet in the night sky, surpassing Jupiter.
Venus is the Morning Star
Venus remains a “morning star” through the end of 2020, rising a few hours before the Sun. You can’t miss Venus. She’s still the very brightest planet in the skies, though her fellow planets are partying at night.
Full Harvest Moon
Expecting the Harvest Moon this month? You’re not alone! The full Moon that happens nearest to the autumnal equinox always takes on the name “Harvest Moon.”
In 2020, the Harvest Moon falls in October (which has two full Moons this year). See the October Moon Guide.