December 6, 2021: Brilliant Evening Star Venus is in conjunction with the crescent moon this evening. Look for them low in the southwest after sunset. This is the final conjunction of Venus and the moon for this evening appearance of the planet.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:04 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
During its interval of greatest brightness, Evening Star Venus appears with the crescent moon this evening. This is not the closest conjunction of the two celestial wonders during this evening appearance of Venus, but it likely the most beautiful of this evening cycle. This is the final conjunction of Venus and the moon for this apparition. Here’s what to look for:
Step outside at 45 minutes after sunset. The brilliant planet Venus is about 15° up in the southwestern sky. The crescent moon, 10% illuminated, is 3.2° below the planet.
Through a small telescope, Venus’ phase is an evening crescent that is nearly 24% lit up.
The pair is easily visible for approximately the next hour without any optical assistance. The moon sets nearly 2 hours, 30 minutes after sundown. Venus follows about 10 minutes later.
Notice the earthshine gently lighting the night portion of the lunar orb. A binocular helps with the view. The scene can be captured with a tripod-mounted camera and exposures of several seconds, depending on the camera’s settings.
After this evening, the moon moves away from Venus and toward Saturn and Jupiter. This evening Saturn is nearly 16° to the upper left of Venus.
During the next week, Venus sets about one to two minutes earlier each evening. It is closing in on our planet to pass between the sun and us early next month.
January 5, 2022: Jupiter and the crescent are 5.5° in the evening sky. Look for Mercury and Saturn with the planet-moon duo. Earlier, Venus is low in the west-southwest. Before sunrise, Mars is near Antares.
January 4, 2022: Earth is at perihelion today – it’s closest point to the sun. Mars is a morning planet, while the evening planet pack – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – and the crescent moon are in the southwest after sundown.
January 3, 2022: The moon passes Venus for the final time of this evening appearance of Venus. As night falls, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the southwest. Mars is in the southeast before sunrise.
December 30, 2021: As the year ends and the new one opens, the night sky’s brightest star – Sirius – is in the southern sky at the midnight hour.
December 31, 2021: This morning before sunup, the thin waning crescent moon appears near Mars and the star Antares. Four planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are on parade in the southwest after sundown.