Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines in the eastern sky among the stars of Pisces. Mars is visible earlier in the morning, but is low in the sky when Venus rises. In the evening, Mars shines from the east, while Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwest as a prelude to their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. The moon appears to the upper right of Mars.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:52 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for other locations.
Morning: About two hours before sunrise, find Mars low in the west, while Venus is low in the east. On November 9, Mars begins setting before Venus rises. From your observing spot what is the last date you can find both planets in the sky at the same time because of terrestrial obstructions? Venus rejoins Mars in the evening sky next year.
About an hour before sunrise, Brilliant Venus is in the east-southeast. It is the brightest “star” in that part of the sky. Use a binocular to observe that the planet is below a line from Beta Virginis (β Vir on the chart above) to 7 Virginis (7 Vir).
With the binocular watch Venus move eastward (downward compared to these stars) each morning.
Detailed morning note: Two hours before sunrise, Mars is less than 8° in altitude above the western horizon. An hour later, Venus is nearly 22° up in the east-southeast. It is 0.9° to the lower left of Beta Virginis (β Vir). Use a binocular to observe that Venus is below a line from β Vir to 7 Virginis (7 Vir). Venus is 2.0° to the right of 7 Vir.
Evening: In the evening, an hour after sunset, three planets are in the sky along with the bright gibbous moon. Bright Mars is to the left of the moon in the east-southeast. Jupiter and Saturn are to the right of the moon in the west-southwest.
Mars is retrograding in Pisces. This apparent westward motion, compared to the distant stars, is from our planet passing and moving away from the Red Planet.
Jupiter and Saturn are moving eastward in Sagittarius.
Use a binocular to make nightly observations to observe the planets’ slow apparent motions. The binocular may also reveal up to four moons of Jupiter. They appear as stars next to the planet.
Detailed evening note: One hour after sunset, Mars is over 17° up in the east. The gibbous moon (10.2 days after New moon, 82% illuminated) – over 24° up in the east-southeast – is 5.0° to the left of δ Aqr. With the moon’s brightness, use a binocular to see the dimmer starfield. Farther west, Jupiter is about 25° up in the south-southwest. Saturn is 5.6° to the upper left of the brighter Jovian Giant. In the starfield, Jupiter is 4.2° to the lower left of Pi Sagittarius (π Sgr) and 0.6° to the lower left of 50 Sagittarius (50 Sgr). Saturn is 1.9° to the lower left of 56 Sagittarius (56 Sgr). Two hours after sunset, Mars is over 28° up in the east-southeast. Mars is 1.0° to the lower right of 80 Piscium (80 Psc) and 3.2° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc). At this hour Jupiter and Saturn are in the south-southwestern sky.
Read more about the planets during October.
May 22, 2021: Five planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Evening Star Venus, Mercury and Mars are in the western sky after sunset. A bright moon is in the southeastern sky.
May 21, 2021: Three bright planets are dancing in the western sky after sundown. Evening Star Venus is entering the sky for a months-long residency after its solar conjunction two months ago. Mercury is heading for a conjunction with Venus after its best evening appearance of the year. Mars continues its eastward march in Gemini, but time is running out on its appearance as it approaches brighter evening twilight and a conjunction with Venus.
May 21, 2021: At the weather warms, daylight and twilight lengthen to diminish nighttime hours. As the summer solstice approaches far northern latitudes do not have periods of darkness. From the most northern latitudes, the sun does not set – the Land of the Midnight Sun.
May 20, 2021: Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars continue their planetary dance in the western sky after sunset. Begin looking for brilliant Venus about 30 minutes after sunset. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury and Mars join the ballet.
May 20, 2021: With two bright planets in the southeast before sunrise, the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair, and Deneb – is high in the south as daylight approaches.