January 20, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The bright moon is to the lower right of Mars, while the Red Planet passes planet Uranus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:13 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:51 p.m. CST. (Note that sunset is approaching 5 p.m. CST) Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
During bright evening twilight, Mercury is over 7° in altitude above the west-southwest horizon. A binocular is needed to see the speedy planet hiding in the bright twilight.
The moon is near Mars this evening. One hour after sunset, the slightly gibbous moon is 7.3° to the lower right of Mars. The moon was at its First Quarter phase at 3:02 p.m. CST.
The Red Planet is dimming as our planet moves away after passing between Mars and the sun during October 2020. The increasing distance means the planet appears smaller through a telescope and dimmer to the unaided eye.
Mars passes 1.6° above dim planet Uranus this evening. To find it, first locate dim 19 Arietis (19 Ari on the chart). The star is 0.7° to the lower left of Mars. Use a binocular to locate the aquamarine “star” that is slightly larger than twice the Mars – 19 Ari distance below Mars. You’ll need at least 100x in a telescope’s eyepiece to see the spherical nature of the planet. The planet does not appear large even with that telescopic magnification, just appearing as an ultra-miniature world at its distance from Earth.
Read about Mars during January.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, Regulus (α Leo, m = 1.3) is less than 30° up in the west. If you’re still looking for Venus, it is over 3° in altitude in the southeast at 30 minutes before sunrise. The moon is at its First Quarter phase at 3:02 p.m. CST. Jupiter sets at Civil Twilight. At this time, Mercury is over 7° in altitude in the west-southwestern sky. Nearly 63° in altitude in the south, the moon (7.8d, 51%) is 7.3° to the lower right of Mars. The Red Planet passes 1.6° above Uranus. The planet is 8.8° below Hamal and 0.7° to the lower left of 19 Ari.
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.