2021, July 25: Evening Sky, Mars on Final Approach


July 25, 2021:  Four evenings before its conjunction with Regulus, find Mars in the western sky to the lower right of Venus.  As the calendar day ends, look for the moon below bright Jupiter.

Chart Caption – 2021, July 25: About 45 minutes after sunset, Venus, Mars, and Regulus are in the western sky. Use a binocular to see the Red Planet and the star.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:38 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:16 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Just four evenings before its conjunction with Regulus, Mars is 2.5° to the lower right of the star.  Both are challenging to see during evening twilight.  A binocular is needed to locate them.

Step outside about 45 minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is low in the western sky.  Find an elevated structure or a hilltop to get a better view over terrestrial obstructions.

The planet shines through the beautiful palette of evening twilight.

Mars and Regulus are to the lower right of Venus.  Unless you have a binocular with a very wide field, the trio, likely, does not fit into the same field of view.  Place Venus to the upper left portion of the view.  Regulus is visible to the lower right.  Move the binocular slightly to the lower right so that Venus leaves the field.  Then, Mars appears in the field of view with Regulus.

Saturn and Jupiter are entering the evening sky.  Saturn rises about 20 minutes after sunset.  Forty minutes later, Venus is low in the west, while Saturn is low in the southeastern sky. Mars is still in the sky, but only 2° up in the west-northwest.  Jupiter rises about 75 minutes after sundown.  The bright moon follows about 25 minutes later.

Chart Caption – 2021, July 25: As midnight approaches, Jupiter is above the bright moon in the southeastern sky. Saturn is to Jupiter’s upper right.

As the calendar day ends, the moon is about 20° up in the southeast.  Jupiter is nearly 5° above the lunar orb.  Saturn is about 20° to the upper right of Jupiter.

During the next few mornings, watch the moon pass the planet duo in the morning sky before sunrise.

Saturn is nearing its opposition on August 2.  Jupiter follows 17 days later.  At opposition time, the outer planet is nearest to Earth and at its brightest in our sky.  It rises in the eastern sky at sunset and sets in the western sky at sunrise.

Mars passes Regulus again on July 10, 2023.  Coincidentally, Venus is nearby, 4.8° to the lower right of Mars.  During this appearance of Venus, it does not pass Mars.  Earth’s Twin moves to 3.5° of Mars on June 30 and then moves away.  Low in the western sky on July 16, 2023, Venus moves to within 3.5° of Regulus, but the planet does not pass the star.  A very close conjunction of Mercury and Regulus occurs on July 28, 2023.

Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (15.4d, 98%) is nearly 20° up in the southwest, 9.5° to the upper left of Saturn.  Retrograding in Capricornus, Saturn is 3.3° to the lower right of θ Cap.  Use a binocular to see the stars with the bright moonlight. Jupiter is 12.0° to the upper left of the lunar orb and 19.6° of ecliptic longitude east (to the upper left) of Saturn.  The Jovian Giant is retrograding in Aquarius, 1.6° above ι Aqr and 5.0° below θ Aqr. Begin looking for Pollux (β Gem, m = 1.2) for its first morning appearance about 45 minutes before sunrise. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus is over 8° up in the west, 4.8° to the upper left of Regulus and 7.2° to the upper left of Mars.  The trio may not fit into the same binocular field, but try to see whether all three fit.  Through a telescope, Venus is an evening gibbous (84% illuminated) and 12.3” across. Mars is 2.5° to the lower right of Regulus.  Fifteen minutes later, Saturn is over 6° up in the east-southeast; Venus is over 5° above the western horizon; and Mars is about 2° up in the west-northwest, if you can locate it with a clear natural horizon and an assist from a binocular.  Three planets are visible at the same time.  The planet parade is beginning to reorganize for a challenging view of five planets simultaneously on August 18.  Jupiter rises 15 minutes before Venus sets.  Their opposition occurs in two evenings. As midnight approaches, the bright moon (16.1d, 94%) is nearly 17° above the southeastern horizon. Jupiter is 4.6° above the moon, while Saturn is over 25° up in the south-southeast.

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