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.
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.