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.
July 6, 2021: In less than a week, brilliant Venus passes Mars in the west-northwestern sky after sunset. This evening the two planets are 3.8° apart. Venus is over 18° to the lower right of the star Regulus.
July 1 – July 7, 2021, the waning crescent appears in the eastern sky. Early in the viewing period, the moon is among the dim stars of Pisces. As the week progresses, the moon wanes and moves farther eastward, appearing near Taurus.
July 5, 2021: Our planet Earth reaches its farthest point in its yearly trek around the sun. Our seasons are not related to Earth’s distance from the sun. Coincidentally, the moon is at its farthest point from Earth today.
July 5, 2021: Venus continues to close in on Mars in the west-northwest after sunset. In a week Venus passes the Red Planet.
July 4, 2021: The Venus – Mars conjunction is eight days away. This evening Venus moves to within 5° of the Red Planet.