The Planets for Spring 2020

Venus in early 2020 is a bright evening star and the lone naked eye planet in the evening sky. Before sunrise, however, there is a planet trio in the dawn sky as Mars has now joined Jupiter and Saturn in the morning hours. And, for a short time in late February/early March, Mercury joins the group as well. Some nice pairings of the crescent Moon and three (even four) planets happen this spring.

Mars has slipped into Sagittarius and is above the teapot all spring of 2020 along with Jupiter and Saturn. Look for Mars to be to the right of Jupiter in early March and watch it quickly slip past first Jupiter then Saturn and appear to the left of Saturn by the first week of April.

As for the other gas giants, Neptune is too close to the Sun for easy observation. As for Uranus, look for Venus and Uranus to get about 2° from each other March 7 and 8 in the western sky after sunset. Uranus too will soon slip behind the Sun.

The dwarf planet Pluto is also in Sagittarius and hangs around between Saturn and Jupiter all year. The best viewing will be in fall. Finder charts for all planets, dwarf planets and asteroids are found on our Useful links page.

Spring sky sights

March 18: Planet trio plus!

The dawn sky before sunset is where four planets (Mercury, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter) gather together plus the Moon as well as a dwarf planet, Ceres. Mars is slipping to the east, and will pass under Jupiter March 20 and under Saturn March 31. Both times it misses the gas giant by about 1°. Note Mercury at its greatest elongation west of the Sun on March 24. Jupiter, Mars and Moon will be inside a 3° circle on March 18 (6:45 am DST) diagram below.

April 3: Venus inside M45!

The evening star makes a pass through the Pleiades at less than 1° separation from April 1 to 5. The last time it was this close was in April of 2012 when it traced virtually the identical path. Venus is near M45 roughly every two or three years or so but it is rare for it to pass so close to the centre of the cluster. There are some photo hints in the March/April issue of SGN if you are planning on attempting an image or two.

April 14-16: Last Crescent moon passes planet trio in dawn sky

The crescent Moon passes 7° west of Jupiter on April 14, 4° from Saturn on April 15 and about 3° from Mars on April 16. All those morning apparitions make good photo opportunities.

April 22: Lyrid meteor shower

The Lyrid meteor peak of 20 per hour is not among the most intense showers, but the Moon is entirely absent from the sky this time around since the new moon is on April 23. Furthermore, at peak time, the radiant is 45 degrees above the eastern horizon and the summer constellations of the Milky Way, Sagittarius and Scorpius, are showing themselves above the horizon. April is also a warmer time of year, so go out and enjoy the first “shower” of the year, and hope it is not the liquid kind.