2021: The Morning Sky
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
During 2021 the morning sky has limited planetary activity. Early in the year, Venus disappears into the sun’s bright twilight. It does not appear in the morning sky for the remainder of the year. After their great conjunction, Saturn and Jupiter return to the morning sky after their conjunctions with the sun. Mercury makes three morning appearances. The best occurs with the speedy planet rises at the beginning of morning twilight during late October. The moon makes monthly passes through the morning sky. As the year ends, Mars becomes visible in the eastern sky before sunrise.
- During February Venus passes Saturn and Jupiter in difficult-to see conjunctions.
- March 9: Look for the moon, Jupiter and Saturn.
- July 8: The moon, Mercury, and Zeta Tauri are near each other.
- October 3: The moon passes Regulus.
- November 3: The moon, Mercury and Spica are grouped together.
- November 10: Mercury and Mars appear close together.
The chart above shows rising of the naked-eye planets, moon, and bright stars near the ecliptic for 2021. The graphs display the rising of these celestial bodies compared to sunrise and sunset for time intervals up to five hours before the sun’s appearance. The three phases of twilight are displayed as well. On the rising chart, activity occurs in the eastern sky, except for the setting curves (circles) of Jupiter and Saturn.
It should be noted that when two objects rise at the same time intervals after sunset (same clock time), they are not necessarily near each other. It merely means that they rise or set at the same time interval after sunset or rise at the same time interval before sunrise. Since the charts feature objects’ activities near the ecliptic, they are likely to be up to 10° apart. For example, on the morning of March 9, 2021, the moon and Saturn rise at nearly the same time interval, 100 minutes before sunrise. The moon rising circle nearly coincides with the Saturn rising line. The waning crescent moon, though is 7.8° to the right of the Ringed Wonder that morning
The charts are calculated from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory, for Chicago, Illinois.
July 29, 2021: In a challenging-to-see conjunction, Mars passes 0.6° to the upper right of the star Regulus.
July 29, 2021: The Jupiter – Mars opposition occurs this evening. The planets are 180° apart as viewed from our planet. Mars is setting as Jupiter rises.
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.
July 26, 2021: Four bright planets are in the evening sky. Mars closes in on Regulus for their conjunction in three evenings. Brilliant Evening Star Venus appears to the upper left of the impending Mars – Regulus conjunction. Saturn and Jupiter are low in the southeastern sky after sunset.
July 25, 2021: Four evenings before its conjunction with Regulus, find Mars in the western sky to the lower right of Venus. As the calendar day ends, look for the moon below bright Jupiter.