A month-by-month guide to viewing the planets in 2020

The Sky at Night's Pete Lawrence reveals what planets will be in the night sky throughout 2020, and when to see them.

Friends stargazing. Credit: EvgeniyShkolenko / Getty

Follow our guide to find out which planets are visible the night sky throughout each month of the year 2020.

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January

Mercury Evening planet that sets 70 minutes after the Sun by the end of the month.

Venus Bright, well positioned evening planet. By the end of the month it sets 3h50m after the Sun.

Mars Morning object low in southern Ophiuchus. It currently appears small through a telescope.

Also in the night sky this month:

The brightest and dimmest planets just 4.3 arcminutes apart on the evening of 27 January 2020. Credit: Pete Lawrence
The brightest and dimmest planets just 4.3 arcminutes apart on the evening of 27 January 2020. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter Morning planet near the Sun on 1 January but rising 1h15m before sunrise on 31 January.

Saturn In conjunction with the Sun on 14 January and not visible this month.

Uranus Well-positioned evening planet on 1 January, losing altitude towards the end of the month.

Neptune Evening planet, best placed at the start of January. Poor by the end of the month.


February

Mercury Good evening appearance in early February. Greatest eastern elongation of 18.2° on 10 February.

Venus Spectacular evening planet that sets over four hours after the Sun for most of the month.

Mars Morning planet rising a couple of hours before the Sun. Currently low in the sky and telescopically small.

Jupiter Low morning planet not particularly well positioned.

Also in the night sky this month:

Callisto’s shadow will
transit Jupiter at 
06:30–09:38 UT on 
26 February. The shadow 
is on the planet’s central 
meridian at 08:10 UT
Callisto’s shadow will
transit Jupiter at 
06:30–09:38 UT on 
26 February. The shadow 
is on the planet’s central 
meridian at 08:10 UT

Saturn Morning planet, low and not well placed. Currently close to Jupiter.

Uranus Evening planet, rapidly losing altitude as darkness falls.

Neptune Dim evening planet rapidly swallowed by the evening twilight during February.


March

Mercury Morning planet best seen mid-month.

Venus Dramatic evening planet. Greatest eastern elongation (46.1°) on 24 March when it sets nearly 5 hours after sunset.

Mars Slowly improving in apparent size and brightness, morning planet Mars remains low from the UK.

Also in the night sky this month:

Jupiter appears 43 arcminutes north of Mars on the morning of 20 March. Catch them after 04:00 UT, low above the southeast horizon. Inverted telescope view with south up. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Jupiter appears 43 arcminutes north of Mars on the morning of 20 March. Catch them after 04:00 UT, low above the southeast horizon. Inverted telescope view with south up. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter Visible low in the southeast morning sky. Close to Saturn and Mars. Close conjunction with Mars on 20 March.

Saturn Low morning planet that is close to Mars on 31 March.

Uranus Compromised evening planet 2.2° from brilliant Venus on 8 March.

Neptune In conjunction with the Sun on 8 March and not visible this month.


April

Mercury Poorly positioned in the morning sky and unlikely to be seen.

Venus Now in its crescent phase, a magnificent evening planet when viewed through a telescope.

Mars Low morning planet. Close encounter with Saturn on 1 April and a waxing crescent Moon on 15 April.

Also in the night sky this month:

þ The annual Lyrid meteor shower is favourable this year thanks to the new Moon on the morning of 23 April. Credit: Pete Lawrence
The annual Lyrid meteor shower is favourable this year thanks to the new Moon on the morning of 23 April. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter Low morning planet that currently appears close to Saturn.

Saturn Saturn is in Capricornus and is visible in the morning sky near to bright Jupiter.

Uranus In conjunction with the Sun on 26 April and not visible this month.

Neptune Morning planet, not well placed for observing.


May

Mercury Favourable evening appearance. Appears bright and passes close to Venus on 21 and 22 May.

Venus Rapidly draws closer to the Sun. Sets 4 hours after sunset on 1 May but just 30 minutes after on 31 May. A beautiful thinning crescent through the eyepiece.

Mars Brightening and growing in apparent size. Currently a low object in the morning sky.

Also in the night sky this month:

Comet C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS passes close by some iconic deep-sky objects this month. On 24 May, when it’s at its brightest, it will skim past the galaxies M81 and M82. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Comet C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS passes close by some iconic deep-sky objects this month. On 24 May, when it’s at its brightest, it will skim past the galaxies M81 and M82. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter A bright, low morning planet, currently close to dimmer Saturn.

Saturn A morning object, outshone by Jupiter to the west.

Uranus Not visible this month.

Neptune Not well placed this month.


June

Mercury Evening planet well positioned during the first half of June but dimming.

Venus Reaches inferior conjunction on 3 June, visible reemerging into the morning sky from mid-month.

Mars Improving morning planet, low in southeast as dawn breaks. Mag. –0.5 at the end of June when 11 arcseconds across.

Also in the night sky this month:

Daylight occultation of Venus by a crescent Moon on 19 June. Times are correct for the centre of the UK. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Daylight occultation of Venus by a crescent Moon on 19 June. Times are correct for the centre of the UK. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter Currently close to Saturn low in the southern part of the sky as dawn breaks.

Saturn Just east of bright Jupiter, low in the southern part of the morning sky.

Uranus Morning planet, too low for serious viewing.

Neptune Low in the southeast as the dawn twilight begins to brighten.


July

Mercury Best in morning sky after mid-month. Greatest western elongation (20.1°) on 22 July.

Venus Morning object rising 3h16m before the Sun on 31 July. Moon and Aldebaran near on 17 July.

Mars Morning planet. Moon close on 12 July. Mag. –1.1 and 14.5 arcseconds across by 31 July.

Jupiter Reaches opposition on 14 July. Currently rather low as seen from the UK.

Also in the night sky this month:

Jupiter reaches opposition this month. Look out for these moments near opposition when its moons and their shadows appear close on Jupiter’s disc. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Jupiter reaches opposition this month. Look out for these moments near opposition when its moons and their shadows appear close on Jupiter’s disc. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn Reaches opposition on 20 July when it can be seen just east of Jupiter.

Uranus Morning planet, almost reaches 30° altitude due east pre-dawn at the end of the month.

Neptune Morning planet best seen at the end of July. Almost reaches highest point, due south in darkness.


August

Mercury Best at the start of the month in the morning sky. Superior conjunction on 17 August. Poorly placed thereafter.

Venus Morning planet reaching greatest western elongation on 13 August. Appears 4.5° south of M35 on 9 August.

Mars Rapidly brightening and expanding morning planet. Waning gibbous Moon close on 9 August.

Jupiter Low evening planet. Manages to reach highest altitude, due south, in darkness all month long.

Also in the night sky this month:

The Moon’s effect on the Perseid meteor shower: the brighter the background track behind the radiant path, the more the Moon will interfere with the view. Credit: Pete Lawrence
The Moon’s effect on the Perseid meteor shower: the brighter the background track behind the radiant path, the more the Moon will interfere with the view. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn Evening planet located east of Jupiter. From the UK Saturn remains low.

Uranus Almost reaches its highest point, due south, in darkness by the end of the month.

Neptune Improves throughout the month. Reaches its highest point, due south, in darkness from mid-month.


September

Mercury Evening planet, poorly positioned all month.

Venus Morning planet 2.5° south of M44 on 13 September. A thin waning crescent Moon is nearby on 14 September.

Mars Morning object in Pisces. Brighter than Jupiter at the end of the month. 22 arcseconds across through the eyepiece.

Jupiter Evening planet, well positioned albeit rather low for UK observation.

Also in the night sky this month:

Venus and a 14%-lit waning crescent Moon near the Beehive Cluster M44 on the morning of 14 September. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Venus and a 14%-lit waning crescent Moon near the Beehive Cluster M44 on the morning of 14 September. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn Located just east of Jupiter and well placed despite low altitude when due south.

Uranus Well positioned planet in Aries.

Neptune Well placed this month, reaching opposition on 11 September.


October

Mercury Poorly positioned evening object most of the month. Inferior conjunction on 25 October.

Venus Spectacular morning planet rising in excess of 3 hours before sunrise all month.

Mars Favourable UK opposition on 13 October shining at mag. –2.6 and 22.4 arcseconds across through the eyepiece.

Jupiter Evening planet that remains reasonably well placed but low from the UK.

Also in the night sky this month:

This year’s Orionid meteor shower is under favourable Moon conditions, with a peak ZHR of 23 meteors per hour. Credit: Pete Lawrence
This year’s Orionid meteor shower is under favourable Moon conditions, with a peak ZHR of 23 meteors per hour. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn Sits east of Jupiter and, like its inner neighbour, is well placed but low.

Uranus Well placed all month.

Neptune Remains well placed for observation throughout October.


November

Mercury Morning planet. Greatest western elongation (19.1°) on 10 November when it rises 2 hours before
the Sun.

Venus Despite creeping closer to the Sun, Venus remains a prominent object in the morning sky.

Mars Remains bright but dimming. 20 arcsecond disc on 1 November, shrinking to 15 arcseconds by 30 November.

Also in the night sky this month:

Conditions are favourable for this year’s Leonid meteor shower peak. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Conditions are favourable for this year’s Leonid meteor shower peak. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter Low but visible all month in the evening sky.

Saturn Currently east of Jupiter with the separation shrinking towards the end of the month.

Uranus Well positioned evening planet in Aries.

Neptune Well placed evening planet currently close to the star Phi (φ) Aquarii.


December

Mercury Bright morning object at the start of December but lost soon after. Superior conjunction on 20 December, poor thereafter.

Venus Remains a prominent object in the dawn twilight all month long.

Mars Evening planet in Pisces. Dims and shrinks throughout December. Appears 11 arcseconds across on 31st.

Also in the night sky this month:

Jupiter and Saturn will appear separated by just 6.1 arcminutes at 17:50 UT on 21 December (as viewed south-up through a telescope). Credit: Pete Lawrence
Jupiter and Saturn will appear separated by just 6.1 arcminutes at 17:50 UT on 21 December (as viewed south-up through a telescope). Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter Compromised by evening twilight. Appears to make a very close pass of Saturn on 20, 21 and 22 December.

Saturn Partnered with Jupiter. Close conjunction on 20, 21 and 22 December visible 17:00 UT, low above southwest horizon.

Uranus Remains well positioned all month. Currently in Aries, with bright Mars visible to the west.

Neptune Well placed at the start of December. Loses altitude as darkness falls by the end of the month.

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Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and a co-host of The Sky at Night. This information originally appeared in the BBC Sky at Night Magazine 2020 Astronomer’s Yearbook. Order your copy here.