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2021, March: Mars Marches Through Taurus

The Pleiades star cluster.

The Pleiades star cluster. (U.S. Naval Observatory)

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March 2021: Mars marches through Taurus during the month. During evening hours, use a binocular to track its eastward trek compared to your favorite stars in the constellation.

2021, March: Mars in Taurus

March 2021:  While not as bright as a few months ago, Mars marches eastward through the starfields of Taurus during the month.  Use a binocular to watch it skip past the Pleiades star cluster and near the Hyades.  Later in the month, it passes Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star, and moves toward the Bull’s horns as the month ends.

By Jeffrey L. Hunt

After a few months moving through dim starfields, Mars marches through the richer background of the stars of Taurus. 

Mars is dimming as Earth moves farther away from the planet after the Mars opposition during October 2020.

Read more about the planets during March 2021.

Locate the Pleiades star cluster.  Find the stars nearly two-thirds of the way up in the sky above the west-southwest horizon. The individual stars are not bright alone, yet when packed together they attract one’s attention. Together, they resemble a tiny dipper (not to be confused with the Little Dipper) or a bunch of grapes.  Mars is the reddish star nearby.  Do not confuse it with the star Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.

Mars last passed Aldebaran on April 14, 2019.  After this month’s march through the starfield, the planet returns for a triple conjunction with Aldebaran during the fall of 2022 and early winter of 2023.

This year’s passage through the constellation is easily observed, whether with unaided eyes or through a binocular.

A telescope’s field of view is too limited and the star clusters seem to spill out the edges of the view.  The Hyades star cluster and Pleiades star cluster are too large to fit in the telescope’s eyepiece, even at its very lowest power. 

A binocular may reveal a few dozen stars in the Pleiades star cluster, although during the unaided view, one may see six or seven stars.  This star cluster is frequently named the “Seven Sisters.”

Use the same binocular that is used for sporting events or bird watching.  Lower power, such as 7x, are more easily steadied than a binocular of higher magnification.  (A 7×50 binocular magnifies 7x and has 50 mm diameter lenses in the front.)  Unlike the perspective shown in the movies with two circles of light, your eyes see one circle as portrayed in some of the charts that follow.)

Photographers can capture Mars with the Pleiades and the Hyades with a tripod-mounted camera and exposures up to 20 seconds, depending on the focal length of the camera lens and the local lighting conditions.

Begin looking for Mars about one hour after sunset.  It sets in the west-northwest around midnight. 

Here’s what to look for (Unless noted, times for the daily notes are for one hour after sunset.):

2021, March 4: After sunset, Mars is 2.6° to the lower left of Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster in this binocular view of the scene.
2021, March 7: A binocular view of Mars and the background stars.
2021, March 8: Look for Mars nearly between Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster, and Aldebaran.
2021, March 9: In this simulated binocular view, Mars is 0.3° to the lower right of 37 Tauri (37 Tau). The Pleiades star cluster is to the lower right in the binocular field.
2021, March 13: Mars passes 7.2° to the upper right of Gamma Tauri (γ Tau).
2021, March 14: Mars passes 2.2° to the upper right of Omega Tauri (ω Tau). The planet is below a line that connects Aldebaran and extends through Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau). Tomorrow, Mars is on that line.
2021, March 18: In the evening, use a binocular to locate the dim starfield near Mars. The planet makes an equilateral triangle with Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau) and dim 72 Tauri (72 Tau). This evening Mars passes Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau).
2021, March 19: As night falls look for the moon, 3.2° to the upper left of Mars.
2021, March 20: The crescent moon appears between the Bull’s Horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau).
2021, March 24. Mars passes Tau Tauri (τ Tau). The dim star is above the Hyades star cluster and the Pleiades star cluster.

Mars marches through Taurus during the month.  During evening hours, use a binocular to track its eastward trek compared to your favorite stars in the constellation.

Here’s more about Mars during 2021.

2021, October 22, Mercury’s Morning Best, Arcturus

October 22. 2021:  Speedy Mercury is low in the east before sunrise.  It is putting on its best morning performance of the year.  Arcturus, in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude as Mercury.

2021, October 20: Mercury, Morning Planet

October 20, 2021: Mercury is brightening in the morning sky.  Brilliant Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the evening sky.  The bright moon starts the evening low in the eastern sky.

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