March 31, 2021: The bright gibbous moon is in the southwestern sky before sunrise, near a claw of the scorpion. The bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are low in the southeastern sky, in front of the stars of Capricornus. Jupiter is near the tail.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:35 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:15 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning, the bright gibbous moon is less than one-third of the way up in the sky above the southwest horizon. It is 2.6° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw” of the scorpion.
Bright Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky, in front of the stars of Capricornus. Saturn is 12° up in the southeast. Jupiter continues to slowly open a gap with the Ringed Wonder. This morning it is 11.7° to the lower left of Saturn. The Jovian Giant is over 7° above the east-southeast horizon.
Use a binocular to spot the starry background with the planets. Saturn is 2.8° to the upper right of Theta Capricorni (θ Cap on the chart.) Jupiter is 2.1° to the upper left of Nashira with the interesting meaning “the lucky star of the verdant fields at the end of summer.” Jupiter is 2.0° above Deneb Algiedi, “the kid’s tail.” Notice that Jupiter and the stars make a triangle.
A few stars have the name “Deneb” in them. In Cygnus, Deneb is the “hen’s tail.” Denebola (Leo) is the “tail of the lion.” Deneb Kaitos (Cetus) is “the southern branch of the sea monster’s tail.”
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon (18.0d, 90%) is nearly 25° up in the southwest, 2.6° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi. Farther eastward, Saturn is over 12° above the southeastern horizon. Jupiter – over 7° in altitude above the east-southeastern horizon – is 11.7° of ecliptic longitude east of Saturn. Use a binocular to see the planets against the starry background. Saturn is 2.8° to the upper right of θ Cap, while Jupiter is 5.2° to the lower left of ι Cap. You may have already spotted Nashira (“the lucky star of the verdant fields at the end of summer,” γ Cap, m = 3.6) and Deneb Algiedi (“the kid’s tail, δ Cap, m = 2.8) below Jupiter. The planet and the stars make a nice triangle. Jupiter is 2.1° to the upper left of Nashira and 2.0° above Deneb Algedi. Arcturus (“the bear-guard,” α Boo, m = −0.1) rises at sunset. One hour after sunset, Mars is less than 50° up in the west, in Taurus above the “V” made by Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. The planet moved eastward 17.7° during the month. Use a binocular to spot it 4.1° to the upper left of τ Tau, 2.7° to the upper right of ι Tau, and 7.4° below Elnath. As midnight approaches, the bright moon (18.8d, 83%) is less than 5° up in the east-southeast, 13.0° below Zubeneschamali (“the northern claw,” β Lib, m = 2.6).
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.