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.
January 3, 2022: The moon passes Venus for the final time of this evening appearance of Venus. As night falls, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the southwest. Mars is in the southeast before sunrise.
December 30, 2021: As the year ends and the new one opens, the night sky’s brightest star – Sirius – is in the southern sky at the midnight hour.
December 31, 2021: This morning before sunup, the thin waning crescent moon appears near Mars and the star Antares. Four planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are on parade in the southwest after sundown.
December 30, 2021: The morning crescent moon seems to be captured in the Scorpion’s pincers to the upper right of Mars. Four Evening Planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the southwest after sundown.
December 28, 2021: The Great Andromeda Galaxy is nearly overhead at the end of the evening twilight.