March 2, 2021: Three bright planets – Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn – are visible in the east-southeastern sky during bright morning twilight. The bright moon is near the star Spica.
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.
This morning the bright moon, nearly 90% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the sky above the southwest horizon. It is 5.1° to the upper right of Spica (“the ear of corn”), the brightest star in Virgo.
About 45 minutes before sunrise, Saturn is slowly making its way back into the morning sky after its solar conjunction in January. At this hour it is nearly 6° in altitude in the east-southeast. As the sky brightens from the impending sunrise, Mercury and Jupiter rise higher into the sky,
You’ll need a binocular to catch this triple dip about 30 minutes before sunrise. Jupiter is the brightest and only about 5° in altitude in the east-southeast. Mercury is 1.9° to the upper right of Jupiter. Saturn is 8.1° to the upper right of Jupiter, more than one binocular-field away.
Place Jupiter to the lower left part of the field and move your binocular a little to the upper right, perhaps half a binocular field. Saturn appears there.
Jupiter slowly moves away from Saturn after their close conjunction on winter solstice evening.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.