2021, September 23:  Venus Passes a Claw

September 23, 2021:  Three bright planets shine in the sky during the early evening.  Brilliant Venus is in the southwestern sky after sunset.  This evening it passes Zubenelgenubi – “the southern claw.”  Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky during the early evening.

2021, September 23: Venus passes 2.0° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi. Look for Antares over 25° to the upper left of the brilliant planet.
Chart Caption – 2021, September 23: Venus passes 2.0° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi. Look for Antares over 25° to the upper left of the brilliant planet.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:40 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:46 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Three bright planets shine in the evening sky.  Brilliant Venus is in the southwest.  It is setting after the end of evening twilight, 96 minutes after sunset.

Venus rapidly moves eastward compared to the starry background.  It is moving at over 1° from evening to evening. 

A pinky finger at arm’s length covers 0.5°.  That is the diameter of the sun and moon.  Yes, your pinky finger covers what seems to be the largest and brightest celestial objects.

Venus moves eastward at about two pinky fingers each evening. 

Less than a week ago, Venus moved into the classic Scorpion, today’s Libra and Scorpius.  Zubeneschamali, “the northern claw” (of the Scorpion) and Zubenelgenubi, “the southern claw,” are the brightest stars in today’s Libra. 

The Scales are the only inanimate object along the zodiac, the zone in the sky where the sun, moon, and planets appear.

2021, September 23: Venus passes 2.0° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi.
2021, September 23: Venus passes 2.0° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi.

This evening Venus passes Zubenelgenubi.  The brilliant planet is 2.0° (about four pinky fingers) to the lower left of the star.

Look for Venus low in the southwest at forty-five minutes after sunset.  The star is to the upper right of brilliant Venus.  A binocular may be needed initially to see the southern claw star in the colorful twilight.

At this time notice Antares 25° to the upper left of Venus.  Venus is moving toward that star, passing it next month.  Antares, “the rival of Mars,” is frequently identified as the heart of the Scorpion in celestial artwork.

2021, September 23: After sunset, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky. The gap between them is 16.1°.
Photo Caption – 2021, September 23: After sunset, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky. The gap between them is 16.1°.

At this hour, bright Jupiter is in the southeast.  Dimmer Saturn is to the upper right of the Jovian Giant.  After Venus sets, only Jupiter, Arcturus, and Vega are brighter than Saturn.  The Ringed Wonder looks dim compared to Jupiter.  Together the pair’s brightness dominates the southeastern sky.  Later during the evening, they are farther southward.

Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunup, the bright moon (16.5d, 94%) is nearly 37° above the west-southwest horizon.  In Pisces, the lunar orb is 6.0° to the upper right of Alrescha (α Psc, m =3.8) and 16.3° to the lower left of Hamal (α Air, m = 2.0).  Use a binocular to see the dim stars in this bright moonlight.  Forty-five minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is over 8° above the west-southwest horizon. It passes 2.0° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi.  Antares is 25.1° to the upper left of the brilliant planet.  At this hour, Saturn is 24.0° up in the south-southeastern sky.  Bright Jupiter, 16.1° to the lower left of Saturn is only 4° lower than the Ringed Wonder.  Two hours after sunset, the moon (17.0d, 90%) is just above the east-northeast horizon.  Saturn is over 28° above the southern horizon, but east of the meridian.  In the starfield it is 1.3° to the lower right of υ Cap.  Bright Jupiter, 29.0° above the south-southeast horizon, is 2.8° to the lower right of μ Cap, 1.5° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi, and 1.8° to the upper left of Nashira.

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