2021, August 26: Venus Heads Toward Spica

August 26, 2021:  Brilliant Venus shines in the western sky after sunset.  Watch it close the gap to Spica, leading up to their conjunction during early September.  Look for Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast at the same time Venus is in the western sky.

2021, August 26: Venus approaches Spica. The star Porrima is to the upper right of Venus.
Chart Caption – 2021, August 26: Venus approaches Spica. The star Porrima is to the upper right of Venus.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:11 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:33 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Venus continues to shine brightly after sunset from the western sky.  It is easy to pick out in the colorful hues of evening twilight.  Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky at the same time Venus is in the west.

Evening Star Venus sets 88 minutes after sundown.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible nearly all night.  Saturn sets in the southwestern sky about 2 hours before sunrise.  Jupiter follows nearly 90 minutes later.

This evening, Venus is near the star Porrima and it is moving toward a September 5 conjunction with Spica.

About 45 minutes after sunset use a binocular to spot Porrima 3.5° to the upper right of the sparkling planet.  Both easily fit into a binocular’s field of view.

Porrima is a double star, two stars that revolve around a common center of gravity.  A small telescope is needed to see the two stars separately that are about the same brightness and they are described as yellow or white through an eyepiece.

The double star was first observed over 400 years ago.  Their orbital period is over 170 years!

Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, is 11.5° to the upper left of Venus. The name means “ear of corn.”  The star is the 10th brightest visible from mid-northern latitudes and the 14th brightest from anywhere on Earth.  It is vivid blue-white. The star is about 600 light years away and its shines with the intensity of over 10,000 suns.

During the next several days, watch Venus move away from Porrima and toward Spica.  The change is noticeable each evening.  Venus moves quickly compared to the starry background.

Detailed Daily Note:One hour before sunrise, the moon (17.8d, 84%) is nearly 50° up in the south-southwest.  Jupiter is less than 5° up in the west-southwest.  Twenty-five minutes after sunset, Mercury is over 4° up in the west and 17.4° to the lower right of Venus.  Use a binocular. Fifteen minutes later, Venus is about 8° above the west-southwest horizon, 3.5° to the lower left of Porrima and 11.5° to the lower right of Spica.  The “ear of corn” is over 10° above the west-southwest horizon.  Farther eastward, Saturn is nearly 17° above the southeast horizon.  Jupiter, 17.8° to the lower left of the Ringed Wonder, is about 10° above the east-southeast horizon.  As midnight approaches, the bright moon (18.6d, 78%), nearly 20° up in the southeast, is 15.5° to the lower right of Hamal (α Ari, m = 2.0).  Jupiter, over one-third of the way up in the south-southeast, is 2.8° to the upper right of ι Aqr, 0.5° to the lower left of μ Cap, and 2.8° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi.  Saturn, less than 30° in altitude and west of meridian, is 1.1° to the lower left of υ Cap.

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