January 11, 2021: During bright evening twilight, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury are a challenging observation when they appear low in the west-southwest.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:41 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter widens the gap to Saturn after their great conjunction three weeks ago. The separation is 2.4°. Saturn is to the lower right of bright Jupiter.
Mercury joined the giant planet duo a few evenings ago.
This evening, find a clear horizon toward the west-southwest. Begin looking during bright twilight, about 30 minutes after sunset. Bright Jupiter is less than 6° up in the sky. Saturn is a challenging find, to Jupiter’s lower right. The planet is dimmer, low in the sky, and likely hiding in bright twilight, behind a neighbor’s house or trees, or a cloud at the horizon.
Mercury is brighter than Saturn, but dimmer than Jupiter. This speedy planet is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter.
On New Year’s Day, we gave the final call for Jupiter and Saturn. As easy as the planets were to see at their great conjunction, they are equally difficult to see now. This is a challenging observation. Be persistent!
The window to see the trio together is narrow. Saturn sets 52 minutes after sunset. It is already in a difficult-to-see location at 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter follows Saturn to the horizon only eight minutes later.
Detailed Note: Saturn continues to be difficult to see as it is lower in the west-southwest during early evening twilight. Look with a binocular to see Jupiter, less than 6° in altitude and 2.4° to the upper left of Saturn. Mercury is 3.1° to the upper left of Saturn and 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter. Jupiter sets at Nautical Twilight. When the sky darkens further, Mars is 60.0° in altitude in the south-southeastern sky. It continues its eastward parade through Aries. This evening is 6.2° below γ Ari. The Mars – Uranus gap is 4.6°. Uranus is to the lower left of Mars. Read about Mars during January.
Read more about the planets during January.
July 6, 2021: In less than a week, brilliant Venus passes Mars in the west-northwestern sky after sunset. This evening the two planets are 3.8° apart. Venus is over 18° to the lower right of the star Regulus.
July 1 – July 7, 2021, the waning crescent appears in the eastern sky. Early in the viewing period, the moon is among the dim stars of Pisces. As the week progresses, the moon wanes and moves farther eastward, appearing near Taurus.
July 5, 2021: Our planet Earth reaches its farthest point in its yearly trek around the sun. Our seasons are not related to Earth’s distance from the sun. Coincidentally, the moon is at its farthest point from Earth today.
July 5, 2021: Venus continues to close in on Mars in the west-northwest after sunset. In a week Venus passes the Red Planet.
July 4, 2021: The Venus – Mars conjunction is eight days away. This evening Venus moves to within 5° of the Red Planet.