The thin crescent moon shines in the east-southeast this morning above Venus before sunrise. The brilliant planet is slowly stepping eastward in Virgo. At about 45 minutes Mercury appears to the lower left of Venus. In the evening sky, bright Mars shines from the eastern sky as Jupiter dances toward Saturn in the south-southwest as a prelude to their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:36 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:33 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Morning: As the sky brightens before sunrise, look for the crescent moon, nearly half way up in the sky above the east-southeast horizon. It is nearly 10° to the lower right of Denebola.
The crescent moon is nearly 20° above brilliant Venus. The planet is stepping eastward in Virgo. At about 45 minutes before sunrise, bright Mercury is visible to the lower left of Spica. Venus is approaching the star for a widely spaced conjunction in a few mornings.
Morning detailed note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (26.7d, 19%) – 37.0° up in the east-southeast – is 9.5° to the lower right of Denebola. The lunar crescent is nearly 20° to the upper right of brilliant Venus. The planet – over 18° up in the east – is 7.5° above Spica and 0.9° to the upper right of Theta Virginis (θ Vir, m = 4.4). Mercury (m = −0.7) is 7.8° to the lower left of Spica. By 45 minutes before sunrise, the speedy planet is over 9° up in the east-southeast.
Evening: Bright rusty Mars continues to retrograde in Pisces, although it is slowing to resume its normal eastward march. Use a binocular to observe it 3.3° to the lower right of Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc on the chart) and 3.3° below Delta Piscium (δ Psc). The trio makes a nice equilateral triangle.
Bright Jupiter is less than a third of the way up in the south-southwest as the sky darkens. Saturn, dimmer than its giant planet companion, is 4.1° to the upper left of the Jovian Giant. With a binocular make nightly observations of the planets’ eastward motion in eastern Sagittarius. Notice their nightly change of position compared to the star 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart). This evening Jupiter is 3.1° to the lower right of the star while Saturn is 2.4° to the star’s lower left. Jupiter is also 2.5° to the upper left of 50 Sagittarii (50 Sgr). Jupiter sets about 8:35 p.m. CST – over four hours after sunset. Saturn follows several minutes later.
For more about Mars during November, see this article.
Evening detailed note: One hour after sunset, Mars – 27.0° in altitude in the east-southeast – is 3.3° to the lower right of ε Psc and 3.3° below δ Psc. Farther west, Jupiter is over 23° up in the south-southwest. Saturn is 4.1° to Jupiter’s upper left. The giant planet pair is near 56 Sgr. Jupiter is 3.1° to the lower right of the star, while Saturn is 2.4° to the star’s lower left. Jupiter is 2.5° to the upper left of 50 Sgr.
Read more about the planets during November.
morning sky before sunrise. Observe that the moon is in a different spot each morning, farther east toward the impending sunrise.
June 15, 2021: The moon is with the Sickle of Leo this evening. Step outside about an hour after sunset to find the crescent moon that is about 30% illuminated over one-third of the way up in the west.
July 12, 2021: Venus – Mars conjunction evening. Evening Star Venus passes 0.5° to the upper right of the Red Planet. The crescent moon is nearby. This is the first of three conjunctions of Venus and Mars – a triple conjunction.
July 1, 2021: Saturn and Mars are in opposite directions in the sky. Mars sets as Saturn rises. In about a week, the two planets are visible in the sky at the same time. This event signals that the planet parade is starting to reorganize. During July, three other planet – planet oppositions occur, leading up to a challenging view of the five bright planets during mid-August.
June 13, 2021: After sunset, look for the thin crescent moon near Mars. The lunar sliver is also to the upper left of the star Pollux.