March 6, 2021: Mars continues its eastward march in Taurus. It is still near the Pleaides star cluster.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:47 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mars continues to pass the Pleiades star cluster in the evening sky. The planet is high in the west-southwest. It is not as bright as it was a few months ago, but easily found among the stars of Taurus.
One hour after sunset, start with Orion. The Hunter’s belt stars, a trio of stars that are equally spaced and nearly the same brightness, are easy to find about halfway up in the south. Rosy Betelgeuse is to the trio’s upper left with sapphire Rigel to the lower left.
Use the belt stars as an imaginary pointer and follow the imaginary line to the upper right. You’ll find a rusty star of moderate brightness. That’s Aldebaran (“the follower”). Depending on the brightness of the sky from street lights or other illumination, Aldebaran is with a checkmark-shaped group, known as the Hyades star cluster. Aldebaran and the Hyades make the “V” of Taurus.
Continue to follow the imaginary line beyond the “V” to another reddish star that is about the same brightness as Aldebaran. That’s Mars. The small cluster of bluish stars nearby is the Pleiades star cluster.
Use a binocular to spot the starry background with Mars. You might be able to count a dozen or so stars in the Pleiades star cluster.
Mars is 2.9° to the upper left of Alcyone, the cluster’s brightest star.
The Red Planet is moving toward 37 Tauri (37 Tau on the chart). This evening the planet is 2.0° to the lower right of the star.
The chart also shows a dimmer star, 32 Tauri (32 Tau). Mars is 0.6° to the lower left of the star this evening.
Look again tomorrow or on the next clear evening to locate Mars’ place compared to the starry background.
Here’s more about Mars during 2021.
Read about Mars during March.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (22.7d, 45%), over 22° up in the south-southeast in Ophiuchus, is nearly 12° to the left of Antares. Mercury reaches its morning greatest elongation (27.3°W) at 5:22 a.m. CST. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Saturn is nearly 7° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon. At this hour, Jupiter is only about 3° in altitude, nearly 9° to the lower left of Saturn. Jupiter is visible at this altitude with an unobstructed, cloud-free horizon. Fifteen minutes later, use a binocular to observe Jupiter, over 5° in altitude in the east-southeast, with Mercury 1.0° to its lower left. One hour after sunset, Mars, nearly two-thirds of the way up in the west-southwest, is 2.9° to the upper left of Alcyone and 2.0° to the lower right of 37 Tau.
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.