April 17, 2021: The bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Bright Jupiter is passing a dim star. Through a spotting scope or telescope the distant star seems to intermingle with Jupiter’s largest satellites.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:07 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:34 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Saturn is over 17° above the southeast horizon, about an hour before sunrise. The planet is slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background. This morning, it is 1.6° to the upper right of Theta Capricorni (θ Cap on the chart).
Bright Jupiter – over 12° up in the east-southeast – is nearly 14° to the lower left of Saturn. It moves faster through the starfields than Saturn. The Jovian Giant continues to open the gap on the Ringed Wonder.
This morning, Jupiter is 3.0° to the upper left of Deneb Algiedi (δ Cap) and 0.1° to the lower left of Mu Capricorni (μ Cap).
Use a binocular to see the planets with their starry backgrounds.
Point a spotting scope or small telescope with a low-power eyepiece at Jupiter. The planet’s four largest moons are easy to see. Mu Capricorni appears to be intermingling with Jupiter’s moons. The distant star – over a million times farther away than Jupiter – is along the same line of sight as the planet and its moons.
From North America and South America this morning, the star is near Ganymede. Other regions of the globe may spot the star in a slightly different place than is indicated on the chart.
Depending on the type of telescope, the image may not appear the same as depicted on the chart. Some telescopes invert the image and flip it left to right. Spotting scopes, as those used for bird watching or other terrestrial viewing, usually show the view as shown in the image.
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, Saturn is over 17° above the southeast horizon. Saturn slowly crawls eastward compared to the starry background. This morning, it is 1.6° to the upper right of θ Cap. Brighter Jupiter – over 12° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon – is 13.7° to the lower left of Saturn. The Jovian Giant moves to the east faster and continues to widen the gap to Saturn. Its motion compared to the starry background is a little easier to observe. Jupiter is 3.0° to the upper left of Deneb Algiedi and 0.1° to the lower left of μ Cap. One hour after sunset, the waxing crescent moon (6.0d, 28%) is over halfway up in the west in front of the stars of Gemini. While not in an ideal location or dark sky, the moon is 0.6° to the upper right of star cluster Messier 35 (NGC 2168). Use a binocular to see the moon with the cluster. If the binocular has a wide field, then place the moon and star cluster to the upper left of the field and fit Mars into the lower right. Use the binocular each evening to track Mars as it approaches the star cluster. Mars passes M35 on April 26, but the moon is very bright on that evening. This evening as the sky darkens and the celestial sphere turns westward, better views might be possible of the lunar slice and the cluster together. Mars is 5.8° to the lower right of the moon, 4.0° to the upper right of ζ Tau and 5.4° to the upper left of Elnath.
Read more about the planets during April 2021.
June 15, 2021: The moon is with the Sickle of Leo this evening. Step outside about an hour after sunset to find the crescent moon that is about 30% illuminated over one-third of the way up in the west.
July 12, 2021: Venus – Mars conjunction evening. Evening Star Venus passes 0.5° to the upper right of the Red Planet. The crescent moon is nearby. This is the first of three conjunctions of Venus and Mars – a triple conjunction.
July 1, 2021: Saturn and Mars are in opposite directions in the sky. Mars sets as Saturn rises. In about a week, the two planets are visible in the sky at the same time. This event signals that the planet parade is starting to reorganize. During July, three other planet – planet oppositions occur, leading up to a challenging view of the five bright planets during mid-August.
June 13, 2021: After sunset, look for the thin crescent moon near Mars. The lunar sliver is also to the upper left of the star Pollux.
June 11, 2021: During the early evening brilliant Evening Star Venus and the crescent moon appear together in the west-northwest after sunset. The pairing is the second closest during this appearance of Venus in the evening sky.