2021, December 4, Evening Planets Equally Spaced

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.

2021, December 4: The three evening planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are equally spaced in the southwest after sundown.
Chart Caption – 2021, December 4: The three evening planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are equally spaced in the southwest after sundown.

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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.

Morning Sky

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.

Evening Sky

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.

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