July 7, 2021: In five evenings, Venus passes Mars for the first conjunction in a triple conjunction that carries into 2022. Look for them low in the west-northwest after sunset.
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.
The brilliant planet Venus shines from the west-northwest after sunset. It shines through the vibrant colors of evening twilight.
Venus is approaching Mars for a conjunction on July 12.
This evening Venus is 3.2° to the lower right of Mars.
This conjunction is the first of three groupings of the planetary pair – a triple conjunction – that carries through March 2022.
The term is typically associated with the outer planets, when one planet passes a more distant world or a bright star three times. This can occur with Venus and Mercury as well.
Mercury has frequent triple conjunctions with Mars and with Venus.
A triple is named when the faster moving planet passes the slower moving planet as the first planet is moving eastward. The second conjunction occurs when the faster moving planet is retrograding, moving westward compared to the starry background. The third occurs when the first planet passes the second for the third time as the first planet moves eastward again after retrograde.
The second and third conjunctions occur after Mars passes on the far side of the sun during October and Venus moves between Earth and the sun during early 2022.
After its conjunction with Mars, Venus moves eastward to pass Regulus on July 21.
Venus and Mars easily fit into a binocular field. An optical assist is needed to spot the Red Planet. As the sky darkens further and until Venus sets 95 minutes after sunset, the Red Planet might be visible to the unaided eye.
Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunrise, moon (26.9d, 6%) is nearly 10° up in the east-northeast. Mercury (m = 0.1) is 8.2° to the lower left of Aldebaran. Fifteen minutes later, the planet is higher in the sky, over 5° above the east-northeast. When the sky is darker, Saturn (m = 0.3) is over 25° above the south-southwest horizon. It is retrograding in Capricornus, 2.1° to the lower right of θ Cap. Bright Jupiter, retrograding in Aquarius, is 19.7° to the upper left of the Ringed Wonder. The Jovian Giant 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. One hour after sunset, Venus continues to close the gap to Mars. The brilliant planet is about 6° up in the west-northwest. Mars is 3.2° to the upper left of the overtaking planet.
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