2021, May 9: Planets on Parade

May 9, 2021: Look for five planets today.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the southeast before sunrise.  Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky after sunset.

2021, May 9: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is near Iota Aquarii (ι Aqr) and Saturn is to the right of Theta Capricorni (θ Cap).
Chart Caption – 2021, May 9: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is near Iota Aquarii (ι Aqr) and Saturn is to the right of Theta Capricorni (θ Cap).

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:37 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:58 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

The parade begins before sunrise.  Bright Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeast at about one hour before sunup.

Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the sky at this hour.  Only the sun, moon, and Venus are regularly brighter.  On occasions Mars can be brighter than the Jovian Giant.

Saturn – dimmer that Jupiter, but brighter than most of the stars in the sky this morning – is 16.1° to the upper right of Jupiter.

Jupiter has slowly been moving away from Saturn since their great conjunction on the winter solstice.

Use a binocular to spot Iota Aquarii (ι Aqr on the chart), 1.3° to the lower right of Jupiter.  Saturn is slowly approaching Theta Capricorni (θ Cap), but reverses its direction next week when the Ringed Wonder begins to retrograde – an illusion when our faster moving planet approaches and passes a slower-moving outer planet.

Sunrise interrupts the view of the morning planets.  During the day Jupiter and Saturn move west and set before sundown.  Venus, Mercury, and Mars rise during the daytime and follow the sun across the sky.

Viewing the planets during the day is possible with a telescope.

Evening Sky

2021, May 9: Thirty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is low in the west-northwest. Mercury is 8.8° to the upper left of Venus.
Chart Caption – 2021, May 9: Thirty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is low in the west-northwest. Mercury is 8.8° to the upper left of Venus.

As the sun exits the sky in the west-northwest, brilliant Venus is low in the sky.  At 30 minutes after sunset, the planet is about 5° above the horizon.  It is visible to the unaided eye, but a binocular may be necessary to initially see it.  The planet is at the beginning of this evening appearance that occurs during the rest to the year.

Mercury is 8.8° to the upper left of Venus.  Use the binocular to find it.  Can you see it without the optical assist?

Venus as an evening star article.

Read more about Venus in our summary document.

2021, May 9: Forty-five minutes, Mars is over 30° to the upper left of Mercury. Aldebaran is to the lower left of the speedy planet.
Chart Caption – 2021, May 9: Forty-five minutes, Mars is over 30° to the upper left of Mercury. Aldebaran is to the lower left of the speedy planet.

Mercury is enroute to its best evening appearance of the year.  The planet is bright, but night-after-night, the intensity lessens. 

By 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is near the west-northwest horizon and Mercury is easy to see.  The binocular may be needed to see the star Aldebaran, 7.8° to the lower left of the speedy planet.

At this hour, Mars is visible over 30° to the upper left of Mercury. 

Here’s more about Mercury during May 2021.

2021, May 9: One hour after sunset, Mars is 0.6° to the lower left of Epsilon Geminorum (ε Gem).
Chart Caption – 2021, May 9: One hour after sunset, Mars is 0.6° to the lower left of Epsilon Geminorum (ε Gem).

By an hour after sunset, Venus is below the horizon and Mercury is lower in the sky.

Mars is about one-third of the way up in the sky in the west, in front of Gemini, below Castor and Pollux.  The constellation resembles two stick figures.

The planet is 0.6° to the lower left of Mebsuta (ε Gem on the chart), “the outstretched paw of the lion.”

The Red Planet is moving eastward through the constellation.  The plane of the solar system goes from the lower right corner of the chart to the upper left.  By month’s end, Mars is to the lower left of Pollux.

Here’s more about Mars during 2021.

Venus sets nearly an hour after sunset.  Mercury follows about 50 minutes later.  Mars sets over 4 hours after sundown.

The parade begins tomorrow morning again before sunrise.

Where was the moon during today’s planet parade?

Detailed Note: Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise.  Saturn is nearly 24° above the horizon and 0.7° to the right of θ Cap.  Bright Jupiter, in front of the dim stars of Aquarius, is 16.1° to the lower left of Saturn. In the starfield, the Jovian Giant is 1.3° to the upper left of ι Aqr.  Three planets are visible after sunset. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus is nearly 5° up in the west-northwest. Use a binocular to spot Mercury (m = −0.4), 8.8° to the upper left of Venus.  Fifteen minutes later, Venus is about 2° above the horizon.  Mercury is 7.8° to the upper right of Aldebaran.  Dimmer Mars is over 30° to the upper left of Mercury and 0.6° to the lower left of ε Gem.

Read more about the planets during May 2021.



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