2021, May 7: Five Planets on Parade


May 7, 2021: The planets and moon parade across the sky today.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise in the southeast.  The moon can be seen closer to sunrise.  After sunset Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the west-northwest.

Chart Caption – 2021, May 7: One hour before sunrise, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky. Bright Jupiter is nearly 16° to the lower left of Saturn.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:39 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:56 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

The planets parade across the sky.  Morning planets are visible in the southeast before sunrise.  The moon follows the giant planet duo.  When the sun appears all the other celestial objects are seemingly made invisible by its glaring appearance.  The parade continues after sunset, when Venus, Mercury, and Mars are visible.  They followed the sun across the sky during the daytime, becoming visible after the sun’s brilliance disappeared below the horizon.

Morning Sky

The morning section of the planet parade is best viewed about one hour before sunrise.  Bright Jupiter shines from the southeast, about 20° up in the sky.

Jupiter is brighter than nearly all the celestial objects.  Only the sun, moon, and Venus are consistently brighter than the Jovian Giant.

The planet is moving eastward in front of the stars of Aquarius.  The stars are dim and a binocular is needed to easily view the celestial backdrop.

Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than the stars in the region, is nearly 16° to the upper right of Jupiter, in front of the stars of Capricornus.

With a binocular spot Theta Capricornus (θ Cap), 0.8° to the left of Saturn.  The Ringed Wonder is slowly approaching the star.

Next week, Saturn begins to retrograde, appear to move westward compared to the stars.

Chart Caption – 2021, May 7: Forty-five minutes before sunrise. The crescent moon is low in the eastern sky. Jupiter is far to the upper right of lunar slice.

As this hour the crescent moon, 17% illuminated, is only 4° up in the east.

By 45 minutes before sunrise, the lunar slice is 7° above the east-southeast horizon.  Bright Jupiter is over 30° to the upper right of the moon.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2021, May 7: Thirty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is low in the west-northwest, with Mercury 8.2° to its upper left.

By sunset, Jupiter, Saturn, and the lunar crescent have set in the west.  The evening section of the parade is best viewed between 30 minutes and 45 minutes after sunset, before Venus sets.

Thirty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is less than 5° up in the west-northwest.  Find an observing spot with a clear natural horizon toward that direction or view from an elevated setting.

Venus as an evening star article.

First locate the planet with a binocular.  Can you find it without the binocular’s assistance?

Bright Mercury is 8.2° to the upper left of Earth’s Twin. At this hour, the speedy is bright enough to be viewed without a binocular, but use optical assistance to initially locate it.

The sky is still too bright at this hour to easily locate Mars.

During the next fifteen minutes, Mars appears as the sky darkens.  Can you see it before Venus leaves your view?

Read more about Venus in our summary document.

Chart Caption – 2021, May 7: Forty-five minutes after sunset, three planets are visible – Venus, Mercury, and Mars.

Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is 9° above the horizon and easily seen without optics. 

Venus is just above the horizon.

Mars is over 32° to the upper left of Mercury.

Venus sets 55 minutes after sunset and Mercury follows less than an hour later.

Here’s more about Mercury during May 2021.

Chart Caption – 2021, May 7: One hour after sunset, Mars is in the western sky in Gemini. It is 3.5° above Tejat Posterior (μ Gem) and 1.5° to the lower right of Mebsuta (ε Gem).

By one hour after sunset, more stars are visible.  Mars is over one-third of the way up in the sky in the west, while Mercury is about 7° above the west-northwest horizon.  Not as bright as Venus and Mercury, the Red Planet is under Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, near the Twins’ feet.  The planet is 3.5° above Tejat Posterior, “the heel,” (μ Gem on the chart) and 1.5° to the lower right of Mebsuta, “the outstretched paw of the lion,” (ε Gem).

The Red Planet sets over 4 hours after sunset.

During May, Mars is marching eastward in Gemini.  Its path is from the lower right corner on the chart to the upper left.  By month’s end, Mars is at the lower left of Pollux.

Here’s more about Mars during 2021.

Tomorrow morning the daily planet parade continues.  The moon becomes visible 30 minutes before sunrise.

Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, bright Jupiter is 19.0° above the southeast horizon.  Use a binocular to spot ι Aqr, 1.3° to the lower right of the planet.  Saturn is 15.9° to the upper right of the Jovian Giant.  In the starfield, Saturn is slowly closing in on θ Cap. This morning’s gap is 0.8°. The Ringed Wonder is to the right of the star. At this hour, the moon (25.6d, 17%) is over 4° above the east horizon.  Fifteen minutes later, the lunar crescent is nearly 7° up in the east-southeast.  Deneb (α Cyg, m = 1.2) rises at sunset.  An hour later it is less than 5° up in the east-northeastern sky. Thirty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is over 4° above the west-northwest horizon. Speedy Mercury (m = −0.6) is 8.2° to the upper left of Venus.  As the sky darkens further, Mercury is over 9° above the west-northwest horizon.  It is above a line that starts at Aldebaran and extends through ε Tau. The planet is 5.2° to the upper right of ε Tau. One hour after sunset, Mercury is 7.0° above the horizon.  Dimmer Mars – over 32° to the upper left of Mercury – is marching eastward in Gemini.  The Red Planet is 3.5° above μ Gem and 1.5° to the lower right of ε Gem.

Read more about the planets during May 2021.

2021, July 6: Venus, Mars Final Approach

July 6, 2021:  In less than a week, brilliant Venus passes Mars in the west-northwestern sky after sunset.  This evening the two planets are 3.8° apart.  Venus is over 18° to the lower right of the star Regulus.

2021, July 1- 7, Morning Moon

July 1 – July 7, 2021, the waning crescent appears in the eastern sky.  Early in the viewing period, the moon is among the dim stars of Pisces.  As the week progresses, the moon wanes and moves farther eastward, appearing near Taurus.

2021, July 5: Earth at Aphelion

July 5, 2021:  Our planet Earth reaches its farthest point in its yearly trek around the sun.  Our seasons are not related to Earth’s distance from the sun.  Coincidentally, the moon is at its farthest point from Earth today.

2021, July 4: Venus Aims at Mars

July 4, 2021: The Venus – Mars conjunction is eight days away.  This evening Venus moves to within 5° of the Red Planet.

Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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