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.
March 18, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the southeastern sky as sunup approaches. Jupiter is the brighter planet, but it is low in the east-southeast. Saturn is to the Jovian Giant’s upper right. During the early evening, the waxing crescent moon is in the western sky near the Pleiades star cluster and below Mars. The Red Planet is moving eastward in Taurus.
March 17, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the early evening the lunar crescent is about one-third of the way up in the sky to the upper left of Hamal, the brightest star in Aries. Mars is higher in the sky in Taurus. This evening it makes a pretty triangle with two dim stars.
March 16, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the evening the lunar crescent displays earthshine, while Mars continues to march eastward through the starfields of Taurus.