May 30, 2021: Brilliant Evening Star shines from low in the west-northwest after sunset. Through a binocular locate Mercury, 2.5° to the lower right of Venus. Mercury is quickly departing the evening sky. Mars is higher in the sky, 5.3° to the lower left of Pollux.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:19 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:18 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mercury is rapidly leaving the evening sky after its best evening appearance of the year. It is quickly fading in brightness and altitude in the evening. A binocular is needed to locate it, 2.5° to the lower right of bright Venus.
Here’s how to find the elusive planet. About 45 minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is about 6° above the west-northwest horizon. The planet is easily visible in the colorful shades of bright twilight. A hillside or elevated structure helps in locating the planet above the skyline.
Use a binocular to locate Mercury to the lower right of the bright planet. The star Elnath is 6.1° to the right of Venus. The two planets and the star can fit into the field of view of most binoculars.
At this hour, Mars is over 25° to the upper left of Venus. The Red Planet is to the lower left of Pollux.
Mars is not as bright as it was at the beginning of the new year. It is visible to the unassisted eye, but use the binocular to see it with Pollux and Kappa Geminorum (κ Gem on the chart). Mars is 5.3° to the lower left of Pollux and 1.9° to the lower left of κ Gem.
As Mercury leaves the evening sky, the topic can change to the gap between Venus and Mars. During June, Venus moves to the eastward faster than Mars. Each evening, note the gap is narrower. By the end of June, the gap closes to about 7°. Venus passes Mars on July 12.
The daily descriptions of the Venus – Mars gap, the moon, and Jupiter and Saturn are in the June notes that are linked to the summary document for June below.
Articles and Summaries.
- Venus as an Evening Star
- Venus Evening Star (Summary)
- Mercury during May 2021
- Mars during 2021 (Summary)
- Mars during May 2021
- Planets during May 2021
- Planets during June 2021
Detailed One hour before sunrise, the bright moon (18.6d, 80%), is over 23° up in the south, over 10° to the lower right of Saturn. The Ringed Wonder is nearly one-third of the way up in the south-southeast. It is retrograding in Capricornus, 0.6° to the lower right of θ Cap. Bright Jupiter, trekking eastward in Aquarius, is 18.0° to the left of the Ringed Wonder. Use a binocular to locate the starfield behind the Jovian Giant. The planet is 2.7° to the upper left of ι Aqr, 4.1° to the lower right of θ Aqr, and 4.2° to the upper right of σ Aqr. Mercury is quickly leaving the evening sky and the best evening appearance of the year. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus is over 8° above the west-northwest horizon, with Mercury (m = 2.8) to the lower left of its brilliant neighbor. Use a binocular to see Mercury with Venus. Both are in the field of view of the binocular. Fifteen minutes later, Venus is about 6° up. At this time, Mercury is a challenge to see, even with optical assistance. Mars is higher in west in Gemini, about 25° up in the west. An hour after sunset, Venus is less than 4° above the horizon. Mars is 4.4° to the upper left of δ Gem, 1.9° to the lower left of κ Gem, and 5.3° to the lower left of Pollux.
During 2021 into 2022, Venus passes Mars three times for a triple conjunction. The first occurs on July 12, 2021. The others occur during early 2022, followed by a close approach of the two planets.
July 6, 2021: This is the second bright planet – planet opposition this month. Venus and Saturn are in opposite directions from Earth. Venus sets about the time that Saturn rises. After this date, Venus and Saturn together are in the evening sky until early 2022.
June 19, 2021: The waxing moon appears with Spica in the southwestern sky during the early evening hours.
June 26 – June 30, 2021: The bright gibbous moon passes Jupiter and Saturn in the morning sky before sunrise. Observe that the moon is in a different spot each morning, farther east toward the impending sunrise.
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.