January 19, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The moon is approaching Mars before their grouping tomorrow evening. Mars nears the planet Uranus before tomorrow’s conjunction.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:14 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:50 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mercury is visible low in the west-southwest after sunset. Look about 7.0° above the west-southwest horizon. You’ll need a binocular to see the planet. It appears as a single “star.”
As the sky darkens further, look for Mars over 15° to the upper left of the thick crescent moon. The moon is over 50° up in the south-southwest, while Mars is over two-thirds of the way up in the south from the horizon to overhead (zenith).
Use a binocular to locate 19 Arietis (19 Ari on the chart). Mars is 0.9° below the star. Aquamarine Uranus is over twice that distance to the lower left of Mars.
The planet’s brightness is at the limit of human eyesight. With streetlights and the brightening moon, you’ll need a binocular to locate the planet as it appears as a dim “star.” You’ll need at least 100x of magnification through a telescope to see the planet’s spherical shape, what is called the planet’s “disk.”
Tomorrow evening the Mars is closer to planet Uranus and the moon is close to this planetary pair.
Read about Mars during January.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the Gemini Twins – Castor and Pollux – are less than 15° in altitude above the west-northwest horizon. Thirty minutes after sunset, Mercury is 7.0° up in the west-southwest. One hour after sunset, the moon (6.8d, 42%) is over 50° in altitude above the south-southwest horizon. Mars – over 17° to the upper left of the moon – is over two-thirds of the way up in the south. It is 8.9° below Hamal, 0.9° below 19 Ari, and 1.6° to the upper right of Uranus.
Read more about the planets during January.
For a consolidated view of the daily activity of the planets and moon, subscribe to the Sky Calendar from Abrams Planetarium for $12 for a year. Each month’s sky events are displayed in calendar form. The opposite side of the page includes a star map. This is an easy reference to put on your refrigerator or bulletin board. No technology needed! Monthly calendars are mailed each quarter.
February 19-21: The bright moon moves through the constellation Taurus. Use a binocular to see the starry background with the moon.
February 18, 2021: The moon, waxing toward its First Quarter moon phase, is high in the southwest after sunset. Planet Mars is 3.8° to the upper right of the moon. Mars is parading eastward compared to the starry background in eastern Aries as it heads toward the Taurus border.
February 6, 2021: Before sunrise, look east-southeast for the waning crescent moon. It is 4.5° to the upper left of Antares – the rival of Mars.