Brilliant Morning Star Venus continues to shine in the eastern sky before sunrise during December. It is beginning to slip into the sun’s glare. Watch it step eastward through the stars. The December 18 conjunction with Beta Scorpii is especially impressive.
At the beginning of the month, it rises about 2 hours, 20 minutes before sunrise. It loses 2 to 3 minutes of rising time each morning. By the eve of the new year, the planet rises 90 minutes before sunrise, after the beginning of morning twilight.
The planet starts the month in Libra. It moves eastward into Scorpius and then into Ophiuchus.
On December 18, Venus has a very close conjunction with the star Beta Scorpii (β Sco), formally known as Graffias (Crab). The separation is about 50% larger than the Jupiter – Saturn gap three evenings after this conjunction. This is a test whether you might need a binocular to clearly see Jupiter and Saturn as separate worlds in the sky,
For the notes that follow, look toward the southeastern sky about 45 minutes before sunrise.
- December 1: Venus starts the month, 4.8° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi. With Zubeneschamali, this star makes the “claws.”
- December 4: Venus passes 1.4° to the left of Zubenelgenubi.
- December 6: Venus passes 0.6° to the upper right of Nu Librae (ν Lib). Use a binocular to see the dim star.
- December 10: Venus is between the dim stars Gamma Librae (γ Lib) and Iota Librae (ι Lib).
- December 12: The crescent moon (27.3 days after the New Moon phase, 6% illuminated) is over 13° up in the southeast, 4.2° to the upper right of Venus. In the starfield, the planet is 3.0° to the lower right of γ Lib.
- December 15: Venus rises 2 hours before sunrise. It is 2.2° to the lower right of Theta Librae (θ Lib). Use a binocular. The planet is 3.7° to the upper right of Beta Scorpii. Watch Venus quickly close the gap.
- December 17: Venus is 1.1° to the upper right of β Sco.
- December 18: Venus moves into Scorpius. It crosses the constellation in four days. Venus is 0.1° to the upper left of β Sco. Use a binocular to observe that the brilliant planet is 1.4° to the upper right of Nu Scorpii (ν Sco) and 1.0° to the upper left of Omega1 Scorpii (ω1 Sco).
- December 19: Venus is less than 10° in altitude in the southeast, 1.3° to the lower left of β Sco, 0.5° to the lower right of ν Sco, and 1.2° to the left of ω1 Sco. Venus is below a line from ν Sco to ω1 Sco.
- December 20: Venus – less than 10° in altitude in the southeast – is 2.5° to the lower left of β Sco.
- December 21: On this morning of the Great Conjunction, Venus is 3.8° to the lower left of β Sco and 0.7° to the right of Psi Scorpii (ψ Sco). Use a binocular to see the star. This morning’s test is whether Antares is visible. Venus is 6.2° to the upper left of Antares (α Sco). The star is less than 4° in altitude. You’ll need exceptional observing conditions and a binocular to see it.
- December 22: Venus is 9.0° up in the southeast, 5.0° to the lower left of β Sco. The planet is 4.8° to the upper left of Antares that is over 4° above the horizon.
- December 23: Venus is 5.5° to the upper left of Antares.
- December 24: Venus is 5.6° to the upper left of Antares and 1.2° to the lower left of Omega Ophiuchi (ω Oph).
- December 25: Venus is 5.9° to the upper left of Antares, and 2.4° to the lower left of ω Oph.
February 19-21: The bright moon moves through the constellation Taurus. Use a binocular to see the starry background with the moon.
February 18, 2021: The moon, waxing toward its First Quarter moon phase, is high in the southwest after sunset. Planet Mars is 3.8° to the upper right of the moon. Mars is parading eastward compared to the starry background in eastern Aries as it heads toward the Taurus border.
February 6, 2021: Before sunrise, look east-southeast for the waning crescent moon. It is 4.5° to the upper left of Antares – the rival of Mars.