August 28, 2021: Before sunrise, the moon is high in the south. It is in Aries, approaching the Pleiades star cluster and Taurus. Three bright planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are easy to spot after sunset.
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by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:13 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:30 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning the bright moon is high in the south before sunrise. At this gibbous phase, 68% illuminated, it is bright and it casts your shadow on the ground. Its light easily floods the sky dimming stars.
The lunar orb is nearing the Pleiades star cluster. This morning the gap is nearly 17°. The moon is to the lower right of the cluster.
The moon is 10.3° to the upper right of Menkar, the brightest star in Cetus – the Sea Monster. The star’s name means “the nostril.”
Menkar is a yellow-orange star, resembling Aldebaran, that is to its upper left in Taurus. It has about the same brightness as Hamal and the stars in the Pleiades star cluster.
Menkar is over 200 light years away and possibly 200 times the sun’s diameter.
In the evening sky, Venus continues its eastward trek toward Spica before their conjunction early next month.
Look low in the western sky at 45 minutes after sunset. Venus shines through the colorful layers of evening twilight. It is 9.2° to the lower right of Spica and 5.4° to the lower left of Porrima. A binocular helps to see the stars with the brilliant planet.
Each evening Venus is farther southward along the horizon. It maintains about the same altitude at this time span after sunset for the next few weeks. This evening it sets 88 minutes after sunset.
Farther eastward, Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky. Jupiter is the brighter “star.” Saturn is nearly 18° to the upper right of the Jovian Giant.
The moon does not rise until later in the evening. By midnight it is low in the east-northeast.
Detailed Daily Note:One hour before sunrise, the moon (19.8d, 68%) is about 62° above the southern horizon, 16.6° to the lower right of Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster, and 10.3° to the upper right of Menkar (α Cet, m = 2.5). Farther west, bright Jupiter is 3.1° above the west-southwest horizon. For this apparition, we say “good-bye” to the Jovian Giant at this time interval. Twenty-five minutes after sunset, Mercury is over 4° up in the west, 16.8° to the lower right of Venus. Use a binocular to see this inner planet pair. Fifteen minutes later, brilliant Venus, about 8° up in the west-southwest, is 9.2° to the lower right of Spica. Farther eastward, Saturn is nearly 18° above the southeast horizon, 17.7° to the upper right of Jupiter. The Jovian Giant is over 11° above the east-southeast horizon. As midnight approaches, the moon (20.6d, 60%) is about 10° up in the east-northeast and 8.1° to the lower right of Alcyone. Farther westward, Jupiter, over 33° up in the south and east of the meridian, is 3.1° to the upper right of ι Aqr, 0.5° below μ Cap, and 2.6° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi. Saturn is less than one-third of the way up in the south, west of the meridian, and 1.0° to the lower left of υ Cap.
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October 7, 2021: The lunar crescent returns to the evening sky for a short visit in the western sky after sunset. The bright planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible during the early evening.
Mars is at its solar conjunction on October 7, 2021. It begins a slow return into the morning sky. By year’s end it appears low in the southeastern sky with the moon.
October 6, 2021: The moon is at its New moon phase today. This evening look for the three bright planets after sunset.
October 5, 2021: Before sunrise, a very thin moon is visible in the eastern sky. The evening planet pack – Evening Star Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible at the same time after sundown.
October 29, 2021: Today is the date for equal daylight and equal darkness for about 42° north latitude. This is not to be confused with the autumnal equinox.