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.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:23 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:28 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This evening brilliant Evening Star Venus is making its final approach to its conjunction with Mars on July 12. On that evening, Venus passes Mars for the first conjunction of a triple conjunction that extends into next year.
At about 45 minutes after sunset, step outside and look low in the west-northwest. Brilliant Venus is shining through the beautiful hues of evening twilight. It is over 8° up in the sky. A clear horizon is needed in that direction. A view from a hilltop or elevated structure will assist to locate the planet.
Use a binocular to locate Mars to the upper left of the brilliant planet. Both easily fit into a binocular’s field of view.
Venus sets 81 minutes after sunset and Mars a few minutes later. As the evening progresses the sky darkens, but the planetary pair is low in the sky. Can you see Mars before it sets without the binocular’s optical assist?
Venus continues to emerge from its solar conjunction on March 26. Mars is slowly disappearing into bright twilight. Its solar conjunction is on October 7.
Mars has dimmed considerably since its bright display last summer and autumn. It is dim when near Venus. The Red Planet is nearing its farthest distance from Earth and its reflected sunlight travels farther to our eyes. Consequently, the planet is dimmer in our sky.
Both planets are moving eastward along the ecliptic, but Venus moves twice the speed of Mars.
After the conjunction with Mars, Venus passes the star Regulus on July 21. The gap between them tonight is over 18°.
Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (25.9d, 12%) is over 15° above the east-northeast horizon. It is to the right of a line from the Pleiades to Aldebaran, 6.7° below the star cluster and 7.0° above the star. Farther westward along the ecliptic, Jupiter is over 36° up in the south, retrograding in Aquarius. It is 2.9° to the upper left of ι Aqr, 4.1° below θ Aqr, and 3.9° to the lower right of σ Aqr. Saturn is 19.7° to the lower right of Jupiter and 2.0° to the lower right of θ Cap. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury (m = 0.2) is over 5° up in the east-northeast and nearly 19° to the lower left of the lunar crescent. One hour after sunset, Venus is about 6° up in the west-northwest. The Venus – Mars gap is 3.8°. Mars is to the upper left of Venus. Their conjunction occurs in 6 evenings. Watch the gap continue to close as Venus moves eastward at about twice the speed of Mars. The second planet – planet opposition occurs this evening, Venus – Saturn. Look for them together in the sky at the same time in a week to 10 days.
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