January 12, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are slowly disappearing into the sun’s brilliant light in the west-southwest immediately after sunset. Mercury, not as bright as Jupiter, is to the Jovian Giant’s upper left. Meanwhile, in a darker sky, Mars is approaching Uranus. The moon begins its evening appearance in 2 evenings after its New phase this evening.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:42 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mercury and Jupiter are low in the west-southwest, only 5° in altitude about 30 minutes after sunset. Find a clear horizon that is cloud free. Mercury is about 2.1° to the upper left of Jupiter. The speedy planet is not as bright as Jupiter, but it is brighter than Saturn. Use a binocular.
Saturn is very low in the horizon and this may be the last evening it is visible, even with optical aid.
We made our last call for Jupiter and Saturn on New Year’s Day. Jupiter is bright enough to be seen when it is low in the sky, but an unobstructed horizon is needed.
This evening, Mars is approaching Uranus. Because Uranus brightness is at the limit of eyesight, a binocular is needed to see it as an aquamarine “star. At least 100x in a telescope is needed to see the circular shape of the planet. Stars still appear as points of light in comparison.
Find Mars over two-thirds of the way up in the south-southeastern sky. Uranus is 4.1° to the lower left Mars. A chart showing the location of Mars during this month can be found here.
The moon is at its New phase at 11 p.m. CST. It begins its evening appearance in two nights.
Detailed Note: Let’s attempt to view Saturn one more evening with optical aid around 30 minutes after sunset. This will be a challenge. Jupiter is about 5° up in the west-southwest, 2.5° to the upper left of Saturn. Mercury is 4.5° to the upper left of Saturn and 2.1° to the upper left of Jupiter. Thirty minutes later, Mars is over 60° up in the south-southeast, 6.1° to the lower left of γ Ari. Find Uranus 4.1° to the lower left of Mars. The moon is at its New phase at 11 p.m. CST.
Read more about the planets during January.