December 4, 2021: The evening planets – Evening Star Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are nearly equally spaced across the southwestern sky after sunset. Mars is climbing into the morning sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:02 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mars is slowly climbing into the morning sky after is solar conjunction nearly two months ago. The planet is far away from Earth on its solar orbit and unexpectantly dim. It is about 7° up in the east-southeast at 45 minutes before sunrise. Use a binocular to locate it.
After sunset, the three bright planets – Venus, Saturn and Jupiter – are lining up in the southwestern sky. Venus is stepping eastward toward Saturn while Jupiter is slowly inching away from the Ringed Wonder.
This evening, the trio is nearly equally spaced. Brilliant Venus is over 14° up in the south-southwest. It is intensely bright as it is catching up to pass between our planet and the sun in about a month.
Through a telescope, the planet shows an evening crescent phase that is 25% illuminated.
Saturn is dimmer than Venus and Jupiter. It is 16.7° to the upper left of Venus. The planet is over 930 million miles away from Earth this evening. Through a telescope, the rings are easily visible.
Bright Jupiter is 16.6° to the upper left of Saturn. The Jovian Giant is over one-third of the way up in the sky and west of the south direction point. Jupiter’s largest moons are visible through a binocular, if held steadily. The four largest are easily visible through a telescope as well as its major cloud stripes.
Jupiter is over 480 million miles away this evening.
After this evening, Venus continues to close in on Saturn. The gap is reduced about 0.5° each evening.
In two evenings, the moon joins the scene with Venus in a spectacular grouping that should not be missed.
The moon passes Saturn and Jupiter, on December 7-9.
- 2023, October 12: Bright Morning Planets Bookend Stellar SpectacularOctober 12, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus and Jupiter bracket the Milky Way’s bright Orion region.
- 2023, October 11: Morning Earthshine, LeoOctober 11, 2023: The morning’s thin lunar crescent displays earthshine as it appears near the constellation Leo.
- 2023, October 10: Morning Venus-Moon-Regulus Gathering, Venus-Saturn OppositionOctober 10, 2023: This morning Venus, the crescent moon, and Regulus gather in the eastern sky for a beautiful celestial display. Venus and Saturn are at opposition today.
- 2023, October 9: Venus-Regulus Conjunction, Morning Crescent MoonOctober 9, 2023: The Venus-Regulus conjunction occurs this morning. The morning crescent moon is above Venus during twilight.
- 2023, October 8: Celestial Barnyard, Convergence at RegulusOctober 8, 2023: The moon is visible with a celestial barnyard during morning twilight. Venus and the lunar crescent head for a celestial gathering in two mornings.