2021, March 16: Morning Planets, Evening Crescent, Mars

2021, March 16: Morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are in the southeastern sky before sunrise.
2021, March 16: Morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are in the southeastern sky before sunrise.

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.

Morning Sky

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.

Evening Sky

2021, March 16: One hour after sunset, the crescent moon is in the western sky.
2021, March 16: One hour after sunset, the crescent moon is in the western sky.

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.

2021, March 16: One hour after sunset, Mars is in front of the stars of Taurus.
2021, March 16: One hour after sunset, Mars is in front of the stars of Taurus.

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. 

2021, March 16: In this simulated binocular view, Mars approaches Kappa Tauri (κ Tau) and Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau).
2021, March 16: In this simulated binocular view, Mars approaches Kappa Tauri (κ Tau) and Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau).

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.



Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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