March 11, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are becoming easier to see in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Both are leaving bright twilight after their solar conjunctions during January.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:09 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:53 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter and Saturn are easier to see in the predawn sky. While low in the east-southeast, the pair of giant planets appears higher in the sky each day and noticeably higher each week.
Jupiter is slowly moving away from the Ringed Wonder after their great conjunction on the day of the winter solstice over two months ago.
Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Saturn is over 8° degrees above the southeast horizon. This morning Jupiter – brighter than Saturn – is over 9° to Saturn’s lower left.
When you extend your fist, the distance from your thumb knuckle to your pinky finger knuckle is about 10°. To gauge the distance, first locate dim Saturn, and then fully extend your arm. Put one knuckle so that it’s next to Saturn. Tilt your hand to the lower left, Jupiter should appear near the other knuckle.
Mercury is moving back into bright twilight. You’ll need a binocular to see it 5.4° to the lower left of Jupiter during bright twilight about 30 minutes before sunrise. The planet is only 4° above the east-southeast horizon.
For the rest of this apparition, we say “goodbye” to Mercury as it moves toward its superior conjunction and into the evening sky.
Under exceptional conditions, you can track Mercury’s low altitude for a few more mornings before it disappears into bright sunlight.
Detailed Note: Saturn and Jupiter are easier to see in the predawn sky. They are appearing higher in the sky each morning. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Saturn is over 8° in altitude above the southeast horizon. Jupiter is over 9° to Saturn’s lower left and about 4° up in the sky in the east-southeast. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is 4.0° up, 5.4° to the lower left of Jupiter. We say good-bye to Mercury for this apparition. With exceptional conditions you should be able to track it for a few more mornings before it is lost in the sun’s brilliant light. One hour after sunset, Mars (m = 1.1) is less than 60° in altitude above the west-southwestern horizon, among the stars of Taurus. It is to the upper left of the Pleiades and nearly 9° to the right of Aldebaran. Use a binocular to spot it 0.8° to the upper left of 37 Tau.
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.