March 15, 2021: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. The thin crescent moon and Mars are in the western sky after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:02 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:58 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
On this 15th of the month, (Ides of March), the season of equal daylight and darkness is here. Two bright planets shine before sunrise from the southeastern sky.
Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Saturn is nearly 10° above the southeastern horizon. Bright Jupiter is nearly 10° to the lower left of the Ringed Wonder. The Jovian Giant is low in the sky, over 5° above the horizon.
Both planets are slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background. Jupiter moves farther to the east (lower left) of Saturn each morning.
The trek is slow for both planets. Jupiter’s time for one orbit around the sun is nearly 12 years, while Saturn’s year is nearly 30 earth-years.
Jupiter slowly moves away from Saturn, completes one complete trek through the zodiacal constellations, but then takes nearly eight years to catch Saturn again in 2040.
The crescent moon, 6% illuminated, is less than 15° above the horizon in the west after sunset. It is in the constellation Pisces near the stars Nu Piscium (ν Psc on the chart) and Mu Piscium (μ Psc). Mars was in this region of the sky when it was at opposition during October 2020.
The difference in the moon’s position this evening and Mars’ place in front of the stars indicates the distance the planet moves during several months.
Mars begins the evening about two-thirds of the way up in the sky among the stars of Taurus. It is above a line from Aldebaran through Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau).
The planet is moving toward the stars Kappa Tauri (κ Tau) and Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau). Use a binocular to see the planet with the background stars.
After passing Kappa Tauri and Upsilon Tauri, Mars marches toward Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau). It passes between them later next month.
Here’s more about Mars during 2021.
Read about Mars during March.
Detailed Note: Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Saturn is nearly 10° in altitude above the southeastern horizon. Bright Jupiter is 9.8° of ecliptic longitude east of Saturn. At this hour it is over 5° in altitude in the east-southeast. In the evening, one hour after sunset, the moon (2.6d, 6%) is about 14° up in the west, among the stars of Pisces. It is 1.2° to the upper left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc, m = 4.8) and 1.7° to the lower left of Nu Piscium (ν Psc, m = 4.4). Mars was near these stars not long ago. This evening the Red Planet is less than two-thirds of the way up in the west-southwestern sky among the stars of Taurus. It is slightly above an imaginary line that extends from Aldebaran through ε Tau. Use a binocular to spot the stars κ Tau and υ Tau, to the upper left of Mars, slightly over 1.0° away.
Read more about the planets during March 2021.
July 26, 2021: Four bright planets are in the evening sky. Mars closes in on Regulus for their conjunction in three evenings. Brilliant Evening Star Venus appears to the upper left of the impending Mars – Regulus conjunction. Saturn and Jupiter are low in the southeastern sky after sunset.
July 25, 2021: Four evenings before its conjunction with Regulus, find Mars in the western sky to the lower right of Venus. As the calendar day ends, look for the moon below bright Jupiter.
July 24, 2021: After sunset, Venus and Mars are in the western sky. A little later during evening hours, the moon is near Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast.
July 23, 2021: Four bright planets are visible during evening hours. Venus and Mars are in the western sky after sunset. A little later, the moon is near Saturn and Jupiter in the southeastern sky.
July 29, 2021: Jupiter and Mars are 180° apart along the ecliptic. Dim Mars sets in the west-northwest as Jupiter rises in the east-southeast. This event signals that soon both appear in the sky simultaneously.