Bruce McClure

December 2020 guide to the bright planets

December 2020 will show you 3 bright planets as soon as darkness falls: Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Venus, the brightest planet, is in the east before sunrise. On December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will have their once-in-20-years conjunction in our sky, appearing closer than they have for centuries, only 1/5 of a moon-diameter apart.

November full moon south of Pleiades cluster and north of the star Aldebaran.

Photos of last night’s eclipse, plus tonight’s moon near Aldebaran

Full moon was last night, November 29-30, 2020. There was a faint penumbral eclipse of the moon. Tonight’s moon is still near the bright red star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus. Eclipse photos here.

When is my earliest sunset?

For the southernmost US and similar latitudes, the earliest sunsets of the year are happening now. Your earliest sunset depends on your latitude, but always comes before the winter solstice.

A totally eclipsed sun with a bright light emerging on one side: the diamond ring effect.

What is an eclipse season?

There are many cycles in the heavens. An eclipse season describes one of the most interesting. When we’re in the midst of one, as we are now, an eclipse is inevitable.

See Earth’s shadow after sunset

These next few days – November 27 and 28, 2020 – look for Earth’s shadow and the Belt of Venus below the bright waxing gibbous moon.

Moon and Mars pop out at dusk in November 2020.

Watch for the moon and Mars

Use the moon to find the planet Mars on November 24, 25 and 26, 2020. Then use the planet Mars to find Mars and Uranus within the same binocular field in January 2021.

Orion's Belt or the Celestial Bridge is found in the east at mid-evening.

Orion’s Belt – a Celestial Bridge – links northern and southern skies

Many know Orion’s Belt, a short straight row of 3 stars. To the Aymara – indigenous people in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America – Orion’s Belt is seen as a Celestial Bridge between the sky’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Moon, star Fomalhaut and the planet Uranus on the sky's dome November 22, 2020.

Tonight, look out our galaxy’s south window

On November 22, 2020, use the moon and bright star Formalhaut to visualize looking from our Milky Way galaxy’s flat star-rich disk, into intergalactic space.

Summer Triangle in northern autumn

In late November and early December, look west in the evening for the Summer Triangle. It’s made of the 3 bright stars – Vega, Deneb and Altair – in 3 different constellations.

Before the end of 2020, great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer, as they near their once-in-20-years conjunction on December 21, 2020. At their closest, they’ll be only 0.1 degrees apart. That’s just 1/5 of a full moon diameter. Start watching them now, and you’ll see them draw close together.