2021, March 2: Mars on Final Approach to Pleiades

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2021, March 2: Mars, moving eastward in Taurus, is to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster.

March 2, 2021:  Evening planet Mars is in Taurus and it nears a conjunction with the Pleiades.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:24 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:43 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Mars is high in the southwest after sunset in front of the stars of Taurus. The planet and the starry background in this part of the sky set about six hours after sunset.

Mars nears the Pleiades star cluster before its conjunction with the cluster’s brightest star, Alcyone, in two evenings.  Mars is dimming but still appears as a bright “star” high in the southwestern sky.  It is to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters.

Individually, the stars are not bright, but together they attract our attention, even with the bright winter stars high in the southern sky.

With your unaided eye, you can see six or seven stars.  Through a binocular a few dozen stars are visible.

A binocular best locates Mars with the starfield. 

Aldebaran (“the follower”), the brightest star in Taurus, is to Mars upper left.  It is nearly the same color and brightness as the planet.  With the Hyades star cluster, Aldebaran makes the “V” of Taurus.

The Bull’s Horns are dotted by Elnath, “the one butting with horns,” and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart).

Here’s more about Mars during 2021.

Read about Mars during March.

Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (18.7d, 87%) is less than one-third of the way up in the southwestern sky, 5.1° to the upper right of Spica (α Vir, m = 1.0). Forty-five minutes before sunrise Saturn is nearly 6° in altitude above the east-southeastern horizon.  While difficult to see, speedy Mercury is 6.6° to the lower left of Saturn.  As the sky brightens further, bright Jupiter comes into view.  Mercury is 1.9° to the upper right of Jupiter.  Use a binocular to locate the planets.  Fomalhaut (α PsA, m = 1.2) is at its solar conjunction today.  While not near the ecliptic, at local noon, it is over 22° below the bright solar disk. In the evening, one hour after sunset, the lone bright naked-eye planet, Mars, is nearly two-thirds of the way up in the southwestern sky, 2.7° to the lower left of Alcyone and 1.8° to the upper right of 13 Tau. Five hours after sunset, the moon (19.4d, 80%) is less than 7° up in the east-southeast, nearly 13° to the lower left of Spica.

Read more about the planets during March 2021.

2021, May 28: Close Venus – Mercury Conjunction

May 28, 2021:  This evening Mercury passes brilliant Venus for the second of three conjunctions during this evening apparition of the second planet from the sun.  Use a binocular about 45 minutes after sunset to see the speedy planet 0.4° to the lower left of Venus.  This is the closest visible conjunction until 2033.

2021, May 24: Planets in a Plane

May 24, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise.  In the evening sky, brilliant Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars line up along the solar system’s plane.  The bright moon is in the southeast near Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw.”

2021, May 23: Planet Parade Marches On

May 23, 2021:  Five bright planets parade across the sky.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise in the southeastern sky.  The star Fomalhaut is becoming visible below bright Jupiter and near the horizon.   After sundown, Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky.  The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the nighttime hours.

2021, May 22: Parading Five Planets

May 22, 2021: Five planets parade across the sky.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Evening Star Venus, Mercury and Mars are in the western sky after sunset.  A bright moon is in the southeastern sky.

2021, May 21: Evening Planet Ballet

May 21, 2021: Three bright planets are dancing in the western sky after sundown.  Evening Star Venus is entering the sky for a months-long residency after its solar conjunction two months ago.  Mercury is heading for a conjunction with Venus after its best evening appearance of the year.  Mars continues its eastward march in Gemini, but time is running out on its appearance as it approaches brighter evening twilight and a conjunction with Venus.



Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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