March 16, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the evening the lunar crescent displays earthshine, while Mars continues to march eastward through the starfields of Taurus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:00 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:59 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter and Saturn continue their slow climb into the morning sky. In front of the stars of Capricornus, bright Jupiter is only 6° above the east-southeast horizon at 45 minutes before sunrise.
Saturn is 10.0° to the Jovian Giant’s upper right.
Jupiter slowly steps away (eastward) from Saturn.
The crescent moon, that is 12% illuminated, is less than one-third of the way up in the west. The lunar slice is in front of the stars of Cetus (the Sea Monster).
The moon is to the lower left of the three brightest stars of Aries. Hamal, the brightest, is to the upper right of the crescent.
Mesarthim, “the extremely fat ram,” is about 11° to the right of the moon.
Look at the moon with a binocular. The night portion is gently illuminated by sunlight that is reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land.
The same effect occurs when the moon is at its gibbous and full moon phases. Sunlight from a bright moon illuminates the ground. It’ll cast shadows.
The same effect is occurring on the moon this evening. From the moon, Earth is a gibbous phase. That reflected sunlight is gently shining on the lunar surface.
Photographers can capture the earthshine with tripod mounted cameras. Depending on the camera lens properties and camera’s features, exposures can range from a fraction of a second to several seconds.
Mars is higher in the sky, above the moon, in front of the stars of Taurus. The Red Planet continues its eastward march through the constellation.
It is to the upper right of Aldebaran and the “V” of Taurus, and to the upper left of the Pleiades.
Mars is approaching two dimmer stars, Kappa Tauri (κ Tau on the chart) and Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau). This evening the planet is over 1° to the lower right of those stars. Use a binocular to find the starry background with the planet.
The horns of Taurus, Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau) are higher in the sky. Mars moves between them 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 in the southeast. Jupiter is slowly moving away from the Ringed Wonder. This morning Jupiter is 10.0° to the lower left, nearly 6° in altitude above the east-southeastern horizon. One hour after sunset, the moon (3.6d, 12%) is in Cetus, over 24° up in the west. The lunar crescent is 2.1° above Xi1 Ceti (ξ1 Cet, m = 4.3), 2.1° to the lower right of Xi2 Ceti (ξ2 Cet, m = 4.3), and nearly 11° to the lower left of Mesarthim (“the extremely fat ram,” γ Ari, m = 3.9). A binocular reveals the starfield along with earthshine on the moon. It’s a wonderful evening to view the gentle glow on the moon’s nighttime gibbous shape. Mars is higher in the sky, among the stars of Taurus in the west-southwestern sky. This evening it is 1.2° to the lower right of κ Tau and 1.3° to the lower right of υ Tau. Use a binocular to see the dimmer starfield.
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.