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.
October 8, 2021: The crescent moon approaches Venus in the western sky this evening, leading up to tomorrow’s close grouping of Venus, the crescent moon, and the three stars of the Scorpion’s head.
October 7, 2021: The lunar crescent returns to the evening sky for a short visit in the western sky after sunset. The bright planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible during the early evening.
Mars is at its solar conjunction on October 7, 2021. It begins a slow return into the morning sky. By year’s end it appears low in the southeastern sky with the moon.
October 6, 2021: The moon is at its New moon phase today. This evening look for the three bright planets after sunset.
October 5, 2021: Before sunrise, a very thin moon is visible in the eastern sky. The evening planet pack – Evening Star Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible at the same time after sundown.