We may not yet know what’s written in the stars for the 2020 presidential election, but the planets of our solar system are gathering in our sky for a watch party this week.
November’s cosmic spectacle instead will take an entire night to spot each planet as it comes and goes over the horizon between sunset and sunrise — still less time than it’s going to take America to learn the results of the election.
EarthSky reported on the phenomenon, with important notes on how and when to view.
Saturn and Jupiter are the headliners in November as the two giants approach their 20-year reunion, called the great conjunction, in our sky next month. This year is special: 2020 will be their closest brush since 1623.
Mars is looking bolder now since it reached opposition on Oct. 13, when its position directly faced the sun, affording it the ability to burn brighter than usual. (This won’t be seen again until 2035.) There’s still time to see the red planet shine fiercely in the eastern half of the sky — competing for the title of second-brightest planet with Jupiter in the west. (Hint: Put your money on Jupiter. Mars peaked in October.)
Venus, however, is beating them all as the most luminous celestial object behind the sun and moon. But stargazers will have to hold out until the wee hours to be dazzled by our galactic neighbor’s brilliance. For the Southern Hemisphere, that’s about 90 minutes before the sun comes up. Those further north get a head start, no more than about three hours. The mighty little Mercury will accompany Venus from below, closer to the horizon, in the early morning hours.
Meanwhile, Uranus and Neptune will be overhead but invisible to the naked eye. With the help of binoculars or a telescope, Saturn can be revealed just a few hours after midnight. At 1.7 billion miles away, Uranus might be barely visible without visual aid but will appear very dim even on a clear night. Thanks to a waning moon nearing the end of its cycle, there’s better hope for it.