January 13, 2021: Mercury and Jupiter can be found in the west-southwest during bright evening twilight. Mars is higher in the sky when the sky is darker. It is nearing the planet Uranus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:16 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:43 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mercury and Jupiter appear low in the west-southwest as night falls. To the unaided eye, the planets appear as overly bright stars.
Thirty minutes after sunset, Jupiter is less than 5° in altitude. Find a clear horizon to see them. Mercury is over 3° to the upper left of brighter Jupiter. This observation is difficult to make. Use a binocular to initially spot these planets. Catch Jupiter before it leaves the evening sky.
As the sky darkens further, Mars is high in the south-southeast in a dim star field in Aries. The planet passes the star Gamma Arietis (γ Ari on the chart). The gap is wide, 6.0°, but γ Ari, Beta Arietis, and Hamal are the three brightest stars in the constellation. The trio is far from the ecliptic, where the planets appear in the sky.
Mars is approaching dim Uranus. The distant planet is at the limit of human eyesight, but not considered one of the “naked-eye planets.” Use a binocular to find an aquamarine “star” 3.7° to the lower left of Mars. The star 19 Arietis (19 Ari) is shown on the chart for scale.
A telescope needs about 100x magnification to see the planet’s spherical shape,
Mars passes the distant world in a week, although the moon is in the vicinity on that evening.
Read about Mars during January.
Detailed Note: Thirty minutes after sunset, Jupiter is over 4° in altitude above the west-southwest horizon, 3.3° to the lower right of Mercury. One hour after sunset, Mars (m = 0.1) is 6.0° to the lower left of γ Ari. Look for the planet and the star over 60° up in the south-southeast. Uranus is 3.7° to the lower left of Mars.
Read more about the planets during January.
May 28, 2021: This evening Mercury passes brilliant Venus for the second of three conjunctions during this evening apparition of the second planet from the sun. Use a binocular about 45 minutes after sunset to see the speedy planet 0.4° to the lower left of Venus. This is the closest visible conjunction until 2033.
May 24, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. In the evening sky, brilliant Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars line up along the solar system’s plane. The bright moon is in the southeast near Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw.”
May 23, 2021: Five bright planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise in the southeastern sky. The star Fomalhaut is becoming visible below bright Jupiter and near the horizon. After sundown, Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the nighttime hours.
May 22, 2021: Five planets parade across the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Evening Star Venus, Mercury and Mars are in the western sky after sunset. A bright moon is in the southeastern sky.
May 21, 2021: Three bright planets are dancing in the western sky after sundown. Evening Star Venus is entering the sky for a months-long residency after its solar conjunction two months ago. Mercury is heading for a conjunction with Venus after its best evening appearance of the year. Mars continues its eastward march in Gemini, but time is running out on its appearance as it approaches brighter evening twilight and a conjunction with Venus.