July 18, 2021: All five bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible during the nighttime hours. Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury in the sky before sunrise. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:32 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:22 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
One hour before sunrise, bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwestern sky. Jupiter is over one-third of the way up in the south-southwest. It is brighter than all the stars in this morning’s sky. It is retrograding in Aquarius, an illusion as Earth catches and passes between the sun and the outer planets, known as opposition.
Saturn is at opposition on August 2, followed by Jupiter 17 days later.
Saturn is brighter than nearly all the stars in the morning sky except for Jupiter, Mercury, Arcturus, and Vega.
The Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° to the lower right of Jupiter. It is retrograding in Capricornus.
The star Fomalhaut, “the mouth of the southern fish,” is to the lower left of Jupiter.
About 15 minutes later, Mercury is high enough to be seen in the east-northeast. Find a clear horizon to see it. It is bright enough to poke through the growing twilight. A binocular is helpful to first locate it.
Brilliant Venus continues to shine low in the western sky after sunset. Nearly a week after its conjunction with Mars, the brilliant planet is moving toward a conjunction with Regulus in three evenings.
Step outside at about 45 minutes after sunset. Likely, the moon is the celestial object that first attracts your attention. More on the waxing gibbous moon a little later. Look low in the west-northwest for brilliant Venus.
Venus, Mars, and Regulus tightly fit into the same binocular field. First locate Venus in the binocular. With Venus at the center of the field of view, Mars is to the lower right in the field, while Regulus is to the upper left.
Venus is 3.2° to the upper left of Mars and 3.8° to the lower right of Regulus.
Back to the moon. The lunar orb is 69% illuminated and about one-third of the way up in the sky above the south-southwest horizon.
The moon is 3.3° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw of the scorpion.”
As Venus appears lower in the western sky this evening when the sky darkens further, Saturn – then Jupiter – rises in the east-southeast.
By 11:45 p.m. CDT (in the Chicago area) – about 3.5 hours after sunset – Saturn and Jupiter are in the east-southeastern sky. At this hour, Jupiter is over 17° above the southeastern horizon. Saturn, over 22° up in the southeast, is to Jupiter’s upper right.
The giant planets appear farther south as the night progresses, shining from the southwestern sky tomorrow morning before sunrise.
Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunrise, bright Jupiter is nearly 34° above the south-southwestern horizon. The Jovian Giant is retrograding in Aquarius, 2.2° to the upper left of ι Aqr, 4.5° below θ Aqr, and 4.7° to the lower right of σ Aqr. The planet is now well-past the diagonal line from 38 Aqr to 42 Aqr. After Jupiter resumes is eastward trek, it passes between the two stars again during early January 2022. Saturn, in Capricornus, is 19.7° to the lower right of Jupiter. Retrograding, it is 2.8° to the lower right of θ Cap. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury (m = −1.0) is about 4° up in the east-northeast. Forty-five minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is over 8° up in the west-northwest, 3.2° to the upper left of Mars and 3.8° to the right of Regulus. At this sky brightness use a binocular to see Mars and Regulus with Venus. The trio tightly fits into the same binocular field of view. One hour after sunset, look for Zubenelgenubi, 3.3° to the lower right of the waxing gibbous moon (9.0d, 69%). Saturn rises 45 minutes after sunset. Venus sets 48 minutes later. The gap between Jupiter rising and Venus setting is six minutes. The Venus – Jupiter opposition occurs in three evenings. As midnight approaches, the bright moon is about 14° above the southwest horizon. Jupiter is over 17° up in the southeast. Saturn, to the upper right of the Jovian Giant, is over 22° up in the southeast.
Articles and Summaries
- Venus as an Evening Star
- Venus Evening Star (Summary)
- Mars during 2021 (Summary)
- July Planet Summary 2021 (Summary)
- 2023, October 12: Bright Morning Planets Bookend Stellar SpectacularOctober 12, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus and Jupiter bracket the Milky Way’s bright Orion region.
- 2023, October 11: Morning Earthshine, LeoOctober 11, 2023: The morning’s thin lunar crescent displays earthshine as it appears near the constellation Leo.
- 2023, October 10: Morning Venus-Moon-Regulus Gathering, Venus-Saturn OppositionOctober 10, 2023: This morning Venus, the crescent moon, and Regulus gather in the eastern sky for a beautiful celestial display. Venus and Saturn are at opposition today.
- 2023, October 9: Venus-Regulus Conjunction, Morning Crescent MoonOctober 9, 2023: The Venus-Regulus conjunction occurs this morning. The morning crescent moon is above Venus during twilight.
- 2023, October 8: Celestial Barnyard, Convergence at RegulusOctober 8, 2023: The moon is visible with a celestial barnyard during morning twilight. Venus and the lunar crescent head for a celestial gathering in two mornings.