October 16, 2021: Use a binocular to scan the morning sky. Brilliant Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter continue to gleam in the evening sky. Venus passes Antares in the southwestern sky. The gibbous moon joins Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:05 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:07 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
In a recent article we provided an overview of the bright stars in the sky as morning twilight begins during mid-October.
Take a binocular outside before the bright moon returns to the morning sky in a few days. Locate Orion. It is about halfway up in the sky in the south. Three bright stars – Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka – of nearly equal brightness are in a line and equally spaced. They are Orion’s belt. Above the belt stars are Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, the shoulders. Below are Rigel and Saiph. They mark the knees and legs of the Hunter.
Find the three belt stars through a binocular and place them at the top of the field of view. Orion’s Great Nebula, cataloged as M42, is visible to the lower left part of the field.
The nebula is a stellar nursery. Relatively hot stars are causing the normally clear hydrogen gas to shine. Atoms are energized by the bright light. They emit light, similar to that of a neon sign, but the colors of hydrogen are different from those of neon, a unique fingerprint for each element.
Through the binocular the cloud is greenish. The colors are revealed through a time exposure photograph.
The three bright planets are in the evening sky. As night falls, brilliant Venus is in the southwest. It continues to step eastward through Scorpius. This evening, Venus passes 1.7° to the upper right of Antares – “the rival of Mars.” It is 1.4° to the upper left of Al Niyat Through a binocular, note the star 22 Scorpii (22 Sco on the chart) is 0.2° to the lower right of the planet.
Farther eastward, the bright moon, 79% illuminated, is about 20° up in the southeast. Jupiter is the “bright star,” 8.0° to the upper right of the waxing gibbous moon. Saturn is over 15° to the right of Jupiter. The Ringed Wonder is distinctly dimmer than the Jovian Giant. After Jupiter, only Arcturus and Vega are brighter than Saturn.
Detailed Daily Note: The moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus are strung across the sky from east to west after sunset. The bright moon (9.5d, 79%) is about 20° up in the southeast. Jupiter is that “bright star”, 8.0° to the upper right of the lunar orb. Saturn, nearly 28° up in the south-southeast, is 15.4° of ecliptic longitude west (to the right) of Jupiter. At forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, 57.7° of ecliptic longitude west of Saturn, is 10.0° up in the southwest. It is 1.4° to the upper left of Al Niyat and 1.7° to the upper right of Antares, not quite an equilateral triangle. At 46° east of the sun, Venus is an evening gibbous, 56% illuminated and 21.6” across. Venus sets nearly two hours after sunset. At this time the moon is over 28° above the south-southeast horizon. Jupiter is to the upper right of the lunar orb. Saturn, is at about the same altitude as the moon and nearly 23° to its right. The Ringed Wonder is slightly west of the meridian. As the calendar day ends, the trio is in the southwest. The moon is 24° above the horizon. Jupiter is to its lower right. Saturn is only about 9° above the southwestern horizon.
October 26, 2021: Mercury is at its greatest morning appearance for the year. Look low in the east-southeast before sunrise.
October 25, 2021: This morning the bright gibbous moon seems to be caught between the horns of Taurus. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. The planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the evening sky.
October 24, 2021: Saturn is at its closest to Jupiter as the Jovian Giant picks up eastward speed. The morning moon and Mercury are visible before sunrise. Brilliant Evening Star Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter are in the sky after sunset.
October 23, 2021: This morning the bright moon is near the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. In the evening sky, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot.
October 22. 2021: Speedy Mercury is low in the east before sunrise. It is putting on its best morning performance of the year. Arcturus, in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude as Mercury.