December 2-14, 2021: December 2 marks the earliest sunset. This sunset time continues through December 14. Morning planet Mars is in the southeast, while Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter are in the southern sky after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Today marks the earliest sunset time, 4:20 p.m. CST in Chicago. Check your local sources for sunrise and sunset times at your location. The sun continues to set at this time until December 14.
When the winter solstice occurs on December 21 at 9:59 a.m. CST, sunset time changes to 4:22 p.m. CST, only advancing two minutes.
For sunrise, the sun peeks across the horizon today at 7 a.m. CST. Until the solstice the sunrise changes by fourteen minutes. The latest sunrise (7:18 a.m. CST in Chicago) occurs December 28 through January 10. During that interval the sunset time changes twelve minutes.
A 7 a.m. CST sunrise in Chicago does not occur again until February 4. On that date, sunset occurs at 5:10 p.m. CST, gaining nearly an hour over today’s time.
The Earth’s perihelion – closest point to the sun – occurs on January 4 at 12:55 a.m. CST. Because our planet is traveling through space at a slightly higher speed than its average speed around the sun, the earliest sunrise and set do not occur at the winter solstice.
Create your own sunrise and sunset calendar at sunrisesunset.com.
As for the planets, Mars is slowly making is morning appearance in the southeastern sky before sunrise. The three evening planets – Venus, Saturn, and bright Jupiter – continue to dazzle in the evening sky.
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.