Brilliant Venus, bright Mars, and the gibbous moon shine brightly in the morning sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
The gibbous moon, Mars, and Morning Star Venus shine brightly from the morning sky.
The moon, 75% illuminated, shines from high in the southern sky before morning twilight begins. This morning the lunar orb is 6.8° to the upper left of the star Aldebaran. The star and the Hyades star cluster form the face of Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran marks a Bull’s eye.
On the photo above, the tree’s leaves block most of the overexposed image of the moon. Aldebaran and the Hyades appear to the lower right of the moon.
Farther west, Mars is retrograding among the stars of Pisces. Retrograde motion is an illusion that seems to show that the planet is moving backwards compared to the distant stars.
The planets normally move eastward compared to the starry background. When Earth passes the outer planets, they show this retrograde motion. This motion was the major cosmological problem before the invention of the telescopes to make detail observations and photographs of the sky.
Just one day past its closest approach to Earth until 2035, the Red Planet continues to appear as an overly bright star in the sky.
Next week (October 13), Mars is at opposition with the sun. For us, Mars and the sun are in opposite directions. The planet rises in the east at sunset, appears in the south around midnight, and sets in the west at sunrise.
When near opposition, the outer planets display at their brightest in the skies of Earth.
On the photo above, Mars is 0.4° to the lower left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc on the photo) and 2.9° to the lower right of Nu Piscium (ν Psc). With a binocular make observations each morning to watch the planet approach and pass 80 Piscium (80 Psc) as it continues to retrograde.
Farther east, Morning Star Venus continues to step eastward in Leo. Now well-past Regulus, Venus approaches Rho Leonis (ρ Leo n the photo). This morning, Venus is 5.2° to the lower left of Regulus and 1.3° above ρ Leo.
Each morning look at Venus and the nearby starfield with a binocular as the planet steps away from Regulus and toward ρ Leo.
Watch Venus continue to move through Leo during most of October.
The moon is in the region with Venus and Regulus beginning October 12.
Read more about the planets during October.
During the early evening hours of winter, the stars that shine from the southern sky are a sampler of the sky’s brightest stars.
January 21, 2021: Several bright stars are in the morning sky. This morning look for Antares in the east-southeast. Mercury – near its greatest elongation – is in the west-southwest after sunset. Mars and the moon are near each other. Planet Uranus is near Mars.
January 20, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The bright moon is to the lower right of Mars, while the Red Planet passes planet Uranus.