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.
October 23, 2021: This morning the bright moon is near the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. In the evening sky, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot.
October 22. 2021: Speedy Mercury is low in the east before sunrise. It is putting on its best morning performance of the year. Arcturus, in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude as Mercury.
October 21-November 1, 2021: Brilliant Venus steps through Ophiuchus to the upper left of the star Antares in the southwest after sunset . Afterward, the planet steps farther eastward.
October 21, 2021: The bright moon is low in the west about an hour before sunrise. Mercury is in the east at about the same altitude as Arcturus. Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter shine from the evening sky.
December 18, 2021: This is the anticipated launch date of the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most sophisticated space telescope view the universe.