December 14, 2020: Bright Morning Star Venus is in the southeast before sunrise. It is approaching the Libra-Scorpius border and a close conjunction with the star Graffias.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:10 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
One hour before sunrise, Venus is the lone bright planet in the morning sky before sunrise. Look for it low in the southeast. The planet rises 2-3 minutes later each morning. When consistently looking for it one hour before sunrise, the planet is lower in the sky.
Venus is approaching the Libra-Scorpius border. This morning it is 4.3° below Gamma Librae (γ Lib on the chart). Use a binocular to locate the planet in the starfield. On the chart note the stars above Venus. The planet moved between Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali on December 3. Venus passed Spica about a month ago.
As Venus moves eastward, the background stars rise 4 minutes earlier each day, from Earth’s revolution around the sun. As Venus moves eastward and the stars rise earlier, the motion of the planet compared to the stars seems to be magnified.
Venus is headed toward Beta Scorpii (β Sco), also known as Graffias (Crab), and passes it in four mornings (December 18). The conjunction is close, 0.1°. This is a preview, in separation, to next week’s Great Conjunction. The two gaps are about the same.
This morning, β Sco is very low in the sky, only 5° in altitude at this time. As the sky brightens, it is higher in the sky. Additionally, in four mornings, the is higher in the sky, one hour before sunrise.
Start looking for the star and watch Venus’ final approach to the star during the next few mornings.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, Venus is less than 10° up in the southeast. It is 4.3° below γ Lib. The moon is at its New phase at 10:17 a.m. CST. A total solar eclipse is visible from the South Pacific, Chile, Argentina, and the South Atlantic. The maximum duration of totality is 2 minutes, 11 seconds. None of the eclipse is visible over land in North America.
Read more about the planets during December.
August 1 – 6, 2021: The morning moon wanes toward its New moon phase in the eastern sky. It passes the bright stars that are prominent in the evening sky during the winter season in the northern hemisphere. The stars have been making their first appearances in the morning sky during summer. At this hour, Procyon and bright Sirius are the last stellar duo to appear.
August 6, 2021: In the northern hemisphere, summer’s midpoint occurs today at 6:27 p.m. CDT.
July 31, 2021: The slightly gibbous moon, nearing its Last Quarter phase, is in the southeast as morning twilight begins. It is near the planet Uranus, easily within reach of a binocular. Mira, a variable star, reaches its brightest next month.
July 29, 2021: In a challenging-to-see conjunction, Mars passes 0.6° to the upper right of the star Regulus.
July 27, 2021: Evening Star Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter are in the evening sky. Mars is nearing its conjunction with Regulus in two evenings.