March 3, 2021: The bright moon is near Zubenelgenubi. Three bright planets are visible before sunrise.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:22 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:44 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
About an hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon is about one-third of the way up in the south-southwestern sky. It is 6.7° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi (“the southern claw”). It was once viewed as part of Scorpius. Zubeneschamali, “the northern claw,” is nearby. Today, the stars are mapped in the constellational Libra.
Three planets – Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn – are farther east. Thirty minutes before sunrise, use a binocular to find them above the east-southeast horizon. Jupiter is about 5° above the horizon. Mercury is 1.2° to Jupiter’s upper right. Saturn is 8.4° to the upper right of Jupiter. Jupiter and Mercury are easily visible within a single binocular field. Saturn is outside the Jupiter – Mercury field, and to the planet pair’s upper right. Find Jupiter and Mercury and then move the binocular about half of a binocular field to the upper right of them.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (19.7d, 78%) is about a third of the way up in the south-southwestern sky. It is 6.7° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi (α Lib, m = 2.8). Fifteen minutes later, Saturn is nearly 7° above the east-southeastern horizon. As the sky brightens further, use a binocular to see Jupiter nearly 5° in altitude in the east-southeast with Mercury 1.2° to the Giant Planet’s upper right. One hour after sunset, Mars (m = 1.0) is nearly two-thirds of the way up in the sky in the west-southwest, 2.6° to the lower left of Alcyone. When rounded this evening’s gap is the same as what is observed tomorrow evening when Mars passes the star. As midnight approaches, the moon (20.4d, 70%) is very low in the east-southeastern sky.
Read more about the planets during March 2021.
October 8, 2021: The crescent moon approaches Venus in the western sky this evening, leading up to tomorrow’s close grouping of Venus, the crescent moon, and the three stars of the Scorpion’s head.
October 7, 2021: The lunar crescent returns to the evening sky for a short visit in the western sky after sunset. The bright planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible during the early evening.
Mars is at its solar conjunction on October 7, 2021. It begins a slow return into the morning sky. By year’s end it appears low in the southeastern sky with the moon.
October 6, 2021: The moon is at its New moon phase today. This evening look for the three bright planets after sunset.
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.