January 2, 2021: After their Great Conjunction, Jupiter is to the upper left of Saturn after sunset. Mars is high in the southeast moving eastward in Pisces. The moon seemingly rises late, but look in the east-northeast about 5 hours after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:32 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter continues to move away from Saturn after their Great Conjunction twelve days ago.
Forty-five minutes after sunset, Jupiter is less than 10° in altitude above the southwest horizon. It is 1.3° to the upper left of Saturn.
Because of the low altitude of Jupiter and Saturn, we made our “last call” for the two planets in yesterday’s note. The planets are still visible if you locate a clear horizon toward the southwest. In about a week Mercury joins the scene, so there’s more planetary motion to see!
The window to observe the two planets is quickly closing. Jupiter sets 98 minutes after sunset this evening. With a binocular begin looking for Jupiter as early as 30 minutes after sunset when the planetary duo is higher in the sky. The window lasts for about another 30 minutes.
If you have a clear southwest horizon, you might be able the track Jupiter to near the horizon.
Farther eastward, Mars continues its eastward parade in Pisces. Look for the planet about two-thirds of the way up in the sky above the southeast horizon. Use a binocular to spot the dim starfield behind it. It is 1.4° to the lower left of Pi Piscium (π Psc on the chart) and 2.5° to the upper left of Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).
About 5 hours after sunset, the moon is low in the east-northeast to the left of Regulus. (Five hours after sunset seems to be late, but with an early sunset time, this is approximately 9:30 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. depending on your location in your time zone. Check your local sources for the sunset time.)
Read about Mars during January.
Here is a summary of the planets’ activities during January 2021.
Detailed Note: In the evening, 45 minutes after sunset, Jupiter is over 8° in altitude in the southwest. The gap to Saturn is 1.3°. Jupiter is to the upper left of Saturn. Farther east as the sky darkens further, Mars is marching eastward in Pisces. It is nearly 60° up in the southeast. Use a binocular to spot it 1.4° to the lower left of π Psc and 2.5° to the upper left of ο Psc. Five hours after sunset (about 9:30 p.m. CST), the moon (19.5d, 83%) – 11° up in the east-northeast – is 4.6° to the left of Regulus.
December 28, 2021: Brilliant Venus is quickly slipping from the evening sky. Mercury appears beneath Venus after sunset. This duo is joined by Jupiter and Saturn. In the morning, Mars is near Antares and the moon near Spica.
December 27, 2021: The Red Planet Mars passes Antares this morning before sunrise. At the same hour, the moon is near Spica. The three bright planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the evening sky.
November 25, 2021: This is my postcard to my friends on Earth.
December 21, 2021: The winter solstice occurs at 9:59 a.m. CST. Mars is in the morning sky along with a bright moon. The planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – is in the southwestern sky after sunset.
December 19, 20, and 21, 2021: The bright moon leading up to the winter solstice appears in the western sky before sunrise in front of Gemini.