April 16, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are the morning planets in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the region. Through a spotting telescope or small telescope, the star Mu Capricorni seems to intermingle with Jupiter’s largest moons.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:08 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:33 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Bright Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeast before sunrise. One hour before sunup, bright Jupiter is 12.0° up in the east-southeast. Saturn is 13.6° to the upper right of Saturn and about 17° above the southeast horizon.
Both planets are gently moving eastward compared to the starry background. Saturn is 1.7° to the upper right of Theta Capricorni (θ Cap on the chart).
Jupiter is 2.9° to the upper left of Deneb Algiedi (δ Cap) and 0.1° to the right of Mu Capricorni (μ Cap). On the scale on the chart above, Mu Capricorni is not shown as it is very close to Jupiter.
Use a low-power eyepiece of a spotting scope or small telescope to see the star seem to mix in with Jupiter’s moons. From North America and South America this morning, the star is near the moons Europa and Io. Other parts of the globe see a slightly different view from what is displayed in the chart above.
The star is not actually near the moons, but it is along the same line of sight, over a million times farther away from us as Jupiter and its moons.
Tomorrow morning, Jupiter is passed the star. Jupiter, its moons, and Mu Capricorni are still in the same low-power field of a spotting scope or telescope.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, Jupiter is 12.0° up in the east-southeast, 2.9° to the upper left of Deneb Algiedi. Jupiter is 0.1° to the right of μ Cap. Use a low power telescopic eyepiece to observe the plane of Jupiter’s moons below the star. Europa is to the lower right of the star, while Callisto is less than 0.1° to the lower left of the star. Saturn – 13.6° to the upper right of Jupiter – is nearly 17° up in the southeast. The Ringed Wonder is 1.7° to the upper right of θ Cap. One hour after sunset, the crescent moon (5.0d, 20%) is less than one-half of the way up in the west, 5.6° to the lower right of Mars. The lunar crescent is 5.3° to the lower right of ζ Tau, while Mars is 3.8° to the upper right of the star. With Elnath, the moon is 5.4° to the lower left, while Mars is 5.0° to the star’s upper left. With a wide-field binocular it’s possible to fit the moon, Mars and one of the horns of Taurus in the field of view, but not all four objects simultaneously. The gap between the horns is too large to fit into a binocular field.
Read more about the planets during April 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.