November 25, 2021: Before sunrise, the bright moon appears in front of the dim stars of Cancer. The Beehive star cluster is nearby. Evening Star Venus, Saturn and Jupiter are in the evening sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:52 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:23 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon, 70% illuminated, is high in the southwestern sky, in front of the dim stars of Cancer. The lunar orb is about midway from the star Pollux to Regulus. The seemingly empty space between them is Cancer.
The Beehive star cluster is 4.0° to the lower right of the moon. The moon’s glare overwhelms the cluster, but it can be seen with a binocular. Put the moon in the upper left portion of the field of view. The moon is to the lower right in the view. Move the binocular slightly to remove the moon from the view and to see only the cluster. It appears as a small bunch of stars, like grains of salt on dark cloth.
Return to this spot in about a week to see the cluster without the lunar glare. This morning the moon is a good marker for the cluster, but in a week, the darker sky makes it easier to see. Depending on the outdoor lights around your observing spot, the cluster might be visible to the unaided eye between the Pollux and Regulus.
Mars is slowly making its way into the morning sky. It is very difficult to spot, even with optical help. It is about 7° up in the sky above the east-southeast horizon before sunup.
After sunset, the evening planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the southern sky. One hour after sunset, brilliant Venus is nearly 14° up in the southwest. It is very bright as it nears its interval of greatest brightness. Look for the brilliant planet and the crescent moon on the evening of December 6.
That grouping of Venus and the lunar crescent is the most photogenic grouping of the two celestial wonders of this evening appearance of the planet. This is a “do not miss event” that is easily seen.
This evening Saturn is over 20° to the upper left of Venus. Venus moves eastward faster than both Jupiter and Saturn. Nightly observations show that Venus appears to be closing in on Saturn, but the Evening Star’s apparition is about to stall as it rounds its orbit to pass between Earth and Sun. Venus and Saturn have a conjunction next year in the morning sky after their solar conjunctions.
Bright Jupiter is slowly inching away from Saturn. The Jovian Giant, over one-third of the way up in the south, is 16.1° to the upper left of the Ring Wonder.
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.