2021, March 31: Star Tails, Moon, AM Planets

2021, March 31: As midnight approaches the moon is low in the east-southeast, below the claws of the scorpion.
2021, March 31: As midnight approaches the moon is low in the east-southeast, below the claws of the scorpion.

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.

2021, March 31: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise.
2021, March 31: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise.

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.

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