December 7-9, 2021: The crescent appears with Jupiter and Saturn in the southern sky after sundown. Meanwhile, Mars continues its slow climb into the morning sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Mars continues its slow climb into the morning sky. It is low in the southeast at about 45 minutes before sunrise. Find it nearly 8° above the horizon. It is not very bright at this time. The Scorpion’s claws, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, are over 10° above the Red Planet. Mars is brighter than the claws, but at its low altitude it may seem to be about the same brightness as them.
Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, is over 30° to the upper right of Mars.
After sunset, the crescent moon is near the planet pack – Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. Step outside about an hour after sunset during the next few evenings. The moon is near one of the planets.
Brilliant Venus is in the south-southwest. Dimmer Saturn is about 15° to the upper left of Venus. Bright Jupiter, over one-third of the way up in the south, is nearly 17° to the upper left of the Ringed Wonder.
Here’s what to look for on these evenings:
December 7: The crescent moon – 18% illuminated – is 12.8° to the upper left of brilliant Venus, while Saturn is 5.6° above the lunar slice.
December 8: The moon – 28% illuminated – is 12.1° to the upper left of Saturn and 7.6° to the lower right of bright Jupiter.
December 9: The waxing lunar crescent – 38% illuminated – is 9.2° to the left of Jupiter.
Look for earthshine, reflected light from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land, on the night portion of the moon.
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.