Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the east-southeast before sunrise among the stars of Libra and near Zubenelgenubi. The bright gibbous moon is in the west at the feet of the Gemini Twins. After sunset, Mars is in the east-southeast, while Jupiter closes in on Saturn before the Great Conjunction in 19 days.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:00 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times in your location.
Morning: Brilliant Venus continues to shine brightly from the eastern morning sky, although it is much lower than earlier in the year. It is 2.2° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi and 0.9° to the upper right of dim Mu Librae (μ Lib on the chart). A binocular helps to see the planet with the dimmer stars.
Farther west, the gibbous moon is in the “feet” of Gemini, below Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins. Block the moon’s glare to see the star Mu Geminorum (μ Gem on the chart) 2.5° to the upper left of the lunar orb.
Morning detailed note: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon (17.3d, 96%) is over 30° in altitude in the west. It is 2.5° to the lower right of Mu Geminorum (μ Gem, m = 2.8) and nearly 20° to the lower right of Castor (α Gem, m = 1.6). Block the moon’s glare to see the dimmer stars of Gemini. Farther east, Venus is 2.2° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi and 0.9° to the upper right of μ Lib.
Evening: Three bright evening planets continue their eastward dances among the stars. Mars is in the east-southeast after sunset. It is near the dim stars 80 Piscium (80 Psc on the chart) and Epsilon Piscium (ε Psc). Use a binocular to see the starry background with the planet. Notice Mars’ location compared to these stars tomorrow evening.
Read about Mars during December.
Jupiter continues its eastward dance toward Saturn in the southwest. Bright Jupiter is 2.0° to the lower right of dimmer Saturn. Like Mars, use a binocular to note the position of the giant planet duo with the background stars in eastern Sagittarius. Each night, notice the changing position of them with 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the chart). Also note that Saturn is beginning to close the distance to Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap).
Evening detailed note: One hour after sunset, Mars is 39.0° up in the east-southeast, moving eastward compared to Pisces’ starry background. Use a binocular to spot the Red Planet 1.1° to the lower right of ε Psc and 1.6° to the upper right of 80 Psc. Farther westward, Jupiter is 19.0° up in the south-southwest. Dimmer Saturn is 2.0° to the upper left of the Jovian Giant. Great Conjunction Countdown: 19 days. In the starfield, Jupiter is 2.3° to the lower left of 56 Sgr, and Saturn is 3.8° to the upper left of the star. Additionally, Saturn is 4.4° to the lower right of σ Cap.
Read about Mars during December.
Here is more about the planets during December 2020.
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.