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2021, March 2: Mars on Final Approach to Pleiades

Mars from Hubble during 2018

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photographed Mars on July 18, 2018, during a dust storm and near its closest approach to Earth since 2003. (NASA photo)

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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, October 5: Skinny Moon, Evening Planet Pack

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.

2021, October 3:  Lunar Slice, Evening Planet Pack

October 3, 2021:  Before sunrise, the thin crescent moon is in the eastern sky, to the lower left of Regulus.  After sunset, the planet pack – Evening Star Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – shine brightly.

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