July 7, 2021: Bright Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury are in the morning sky before sunrise. The Jovian Giant and Ringed Wonder are in the southern sky about one hour before sunrise. Mercury is in the east-northeast to the lower left of the crescent moon.
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.
About one hour before sunrise, three bright morning planets are visible. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southern sky, while Mercury is farther eastward near the horizon.
Mercury is making its summer morning appearance. The planet is low in the east-northeast during morning twilight. It nearly always shows itself during twilight and rarely is visible in a dark sky from mid-northern latitudes.
Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is over 5° above the east-northeast skyline. First find the crescent moon – a thin crescent 6% illuminated, about 10° above the east-northeast horizon. Find a clear horizon in that direction. A binocular provides a valuable assist in first locating the moon and then Mercury. The speedy planet is 8.2° to the lower left of the lunar crescent. Place the crescent to the upper right of the binocular’s field of view. Then move the binocular slightly to the lower left. Mercury comes into view. This morning it is slightly brighter than Saturn.
The Ringed Wonder and Jupiter are in the southern sky before sunrise. Jupiter is the brightest starlike sight in the sky this morning. It is retrograding in Aquarius. This motion is an illusion as our planet catches up to and passes an outer planet.
Saturn is nearly 20° to the lower right of Jupiter. It is retrograding in Capricornus. Earth passes between the Ringed Wonder and the sun on August 2, followed by Jupiter’s opposition with the sun seventeen evenings later.
The star Fomalhaut is about 20° to the lower left of Jupiter. Not as bright as Saturn, the star is lower in the sky than the Ringed Wonder.
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 the lunar crescent. 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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