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2021, April 26: Morning Jupiter, Saturn, Bright Moon

This striking view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet.

This striking view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet. (NASA Photo)

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April 26, 2021: The bright morning moon is in the west-southwest before sunrise.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast at about one hour before sunrise.  Both planets are slowly moving eastward compared to the sidereal background.

Chart Caption – 2021, April 26: The bright moon and Spica are in the west-southwest before sunrise. The star Arcturus is higher in the sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:54 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:44 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

This morning the bright moon is about 10° up in the west-southwest.  It is 5.0° above Spica.  Bright Jupiter is farther east, over 15° above the southeast horizon.  The Jovian Giant is trekking eastward in Aquarius.

Chart Caption – 2021, April 26: Morning planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Use a binocular to see the starry background.

With a binocular, watch Jupiter’s place change from morning to morning.  This morning, the planet is 4.2° to the upper left of Deneb Algiedi, “the kid’s tail,” (δ Cap on the chart), 1.5° to the lower left of Mu Capricorni (μ Cap), and 1.9° to the upper right of Iota Aquarii (ι Aqr).

Saturn is dimmer than Jupiter, but it is brighter than all the other stars in the region.  The Ringed Wonder is 14.7° to the upper right of Jupiter. 

Saturn rises over 3 hours before sunrise and 40 minutes before Jupiter.  By one hour before sunrise, the planet is nearly 20° up in the southeast.

Saturn is gently moving eastward.  Each morning, note its place compared to the star Theta Capricorni (θ Cap).

Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (14.3d, 99%) is 5.0° above Spica.  The lunar orb is 9.6° up in the west-southwest.  Farther eastward, Jupiter is 15.4° up in the southeast.  Use a binocular to spot the starfield.  The Jovian Giant is 4.2° to the left of Deneb Algiedi,1.5° to the lower left of μ Cap, and 1.9° to the upper right of ι Cap.  The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 14.7°.  Saturn is to the upper right of Jupiter and 1.2° to the upper right of θ Cap.  Venus continues to crawl into the evening sky.  Find it over 3° above the west-northwest horizon at 20 minutes after sunset.  Bright Mercury (m = −1.5) is 1.6° to the upper right of Venus. Can you see them without a binocular?  By an hour after sunset, Mars is less than 40° in altitude above the west horizon.  The planet is in Gemini, 1.8° to the upper right of 1 Gem and 2.8° to the right of Propus.  The Red Planet is also 4.1° to the lower right of Tejat Posterior (μ Gem, m = 2.8).  In this bright moonlight, use a binocular to spot the star cluster M35, 0.6° to the left of Mars.  Farther east, the nearly Full moon (15.0d, 100%) is over 12° above the east-southeast horizon.  The lunar orb is over 13° to the lower left Spica.  The moon reaches its Full phase (Pink Moon) at 10:32 p.m. CDT.

Read more about the planets during April 2021.

2021, December 28:  Venus Slips, Mercury Hops

December 28, 2021:  Brilliant Venus is quickly slipping from the evening sky.  Mercury appears beneath Venus after sunset.  This duo is joined by Jupiter and Saturn.  In the morning, Mars is near Antares and the moon near Spica.

2021, December 27:  Mars – Antares Conjunction

December 27, 2021:  The Red Planet Mars passes Antares this morning before sunrise.  At the same hour, the moon is near Spica.  The three bright planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the evening sky.

2021, December 21:  Winter Solstice

December 21, 2021:  The winter solstice occurs at 9:59 a.m. CST.  Mars is in the morning sky along with a bright moon.  The planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – is in the southwestern sky after sunset.

2021, December 19-21:  Gemini Moon

December 19, 20, and 21, 2021:  The bright moon leading up to the winter solstice appears in the western sky before sunrise in front of Gemini.

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