2021, March 2: Morning Planet Triple Dip, Moon

2021, March 2: The bright gibbous moon is visible 5.1° upper right of Spica.
2021, March 2: The bright gibbous moon is visible 5.1° upper right of Spica.

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.

2021, March 2: Thirty minutes before sunrise, Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn are low in the east-southeast. Use a binocular.
2021, March 2: Thirty minutes before sunrise, Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn are low in the east-southeast. Use a binocular.

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.

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