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.
October 23, 2021: This morning the bright moon is near the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. In the evening sky, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot.
October 22. 2021: Speedy Mercury is low in the east before sunrise. It is putting on its best morning performance of the year. Arcturus, in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude as Mercury.
October 21-November 1, 2021: Brilliant Venus steps through Ophiuchus to the upper left of the star Antares in the southwest after sunset . Afterward, the planet steps farther eastward.
October 21, 2021: The bright moon is low in the west about an hour before sunrise. Mercury is in the east at about the same altitude as Arcturus. Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter shine from the evening sky.
December 18, 2021: This is the anticipated launch date of the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most sophisticated space telescope view the universe.