January 22-24, 2021: The bright gibbous moon moves through Taurus during the evening.
During three nights in January the bright gibbous moon moves through Taurus the Bull. The constellation is distinct and easily spotted high in the southeast after sunset, although the bright moon’s light makes viewing it a little difficult.
The brightest star is rosy Aldebaran, “the follower. The star follows the Pleiades star cluster into the sky.
In many representations of the celestial bull, Aldebaran is the bull’s eye. The star is near a checkmark shape known as the Hyades star cluster. Aldebaran and the cluster make a sideways letter “V” for the head.
In his study of star names, George Davis also notes that Aldebaran and the Hyades together are referred to as “the follower.”
They are following the Pleiades, a naked-eye star cluster to the upper right of Aldebaran. It resembles a miniature dipper or a tiny bunch of grapes. The stars are not bright, by together they easily catch your eye when you look up.
Drawings of Taurus often show the Pleiades on the back of the bull.
The bull has two long horns, not like a Texas longhorn, rather resembling an addax or oryx. The points of the horn are marked by Elnath, “the one butting with horns,” and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart).
On January 22-24, the moon moves through this region. Because it is over 70% illuminated during these nights, block out the moon’s brightness as you would with the sun. Hold your hand up to cover the moon. Alternately, use a binocular to see the starfield behind the bright moon.
Find the moon and Taurus high in the southeast after sunset. Aldebaran is high in the south about three hours after sunset. As the night progresses, the moon and constellation move farther west. They set in the west at about 3:30 a.m. CST (Less than 4 hours before sunrise.)
The photo above shows a way to block the moon’s bright light, when leaves were on the trees.
Here’s what to look for;
- January 22: The bright gibbous moon is 15° to the right of Aldebaran.
- January 23: The gibbous moon, 78% illuminated, is 4.3° to the upper left of Aldebaran.
- January 24: The moon is 86% illuminated. It is between the horns of Taurus, 4.7° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau) and 6.0° to the lower right of Elnath (β Tau).
Read more about the planets during January.
March 18, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the southeastern sky as sunup approaches. Jupiter is the brighter planet, but it is low in the east-southeast. Saturn is to the Jovian Giant’s upper right. During the early evening, the waxing crescent moon is in the western sky near the Pleiades star cluster and below Mars. The Red Planet is moving eastward in Taurus.
March 17, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the early evening the lunar crescent is about one-third of the way up in the sky to the upper left of Hamal, the brightest star in Aries. Mars is higher in the sky in Taurus. This evening it makes a pretty triangle with two dim stars.
March 16, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the evening the lunar crescent displays earthshine, while Mars continues to march eastward through the starfields of Taurus.