March 8, 2021: The crescent moon begins to approach the morning planets for their monthly grouping. This morning Saturn is about 20° to the lower left of lunar slice. Jupiter and Mercury rise into view during bright morning twilight.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:14 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:50 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning the crescent moon nears the planet Saturn. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, the lunar crescent, 24% illuminated, is low in the southeast. It is in eastern Sagittarius, 4.1° to the left of Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr on the chart).
Saturn is over 20° to the lower left of the moon.
As the sky brightens, Jupiter and Mercury rise into view. At this later time, a binocular is needed to see the morning planet trio.
At 30 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is nearly 6° up in the east-southeast. A cloud-free, unobstructed horizon is needed to see it. Mercury is lower than Jupiter, 2.6° to the Jovian Giant’s lower left.
Saturn is outside the Jupiter – Mercury binocular field. The Ringed Wonder is 9.0° to the upper right of Jupiter. In the binocular field of view, place Jupiter to the lower left quadrant of the view, then move the binocular slightly to the upper right. Saturn will appear in the view.
Jupiter is slowly stepping away from Saturn after their great conjunction on the winter solstice.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (24.6d, 24%) is over 10° above the southeast horizon. The lunar slice is 4.1° to the left of Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr, m =3.3), at the bottom of the Teapot’s handle. At this hour Saturn is over 5° up in the east-southeast. As the sky brightens, Jupiter and Mercury follow behind. Jupiter is 9.0° to the lower left of Saturn. As twilight progresses can you see the two in the sky together without optical aid? By 30 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is nearly 6° up in the east-southeast with Mercury 2.6° to its lower left. One hour after sunset. Mars, high in the west-southwestern sky – is well-past the Pleiades, 3.6° to the upper left of Alcyone. The planet is below a line from Alcyone to Aldebaran, 10.0° to the lower right of the constellation’s brightest star. Among the dimmer stars, use a binocular to spot 37 Tau 0.9° to the upper left of Mars.
Read more about the planets during March 2021.
April 25, 2021: Mercury passes Evening Star Venus this evening after sunset. Look low in the western sky about 20 minutes after sunset. Mars is marching eastward in Gemini, near the star cluster Messier 35. The bright moon is near Spica.
April 25, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in front of the stars of Aquarius, while Saturn’s starry background is Capricornus.
April 24, 2021: Brilliant Evening Star Venus and bright Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are low in the west-northwest during evening twilight. The bright moon is in the southeast in Virgo. Mars moves into Gemini as it approaches the star cluster Messier 35.
April 24, 2021: The bright gibbous moon is near a star in Virgo during the early morning. From parts of the Western Hemisphere, the moon covers the star. Before sunrise, bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise.
April 23, 2021: Evening Star Venus and Mercury are entering the evening sky. They are found very low in the west-northwest after sunset. The bright moon is in the southeastern sky during the early evening. Mars is moving toward the star cluster Messier 35.