December 14, 2021: Jupiter moves into Aquarius this evening. The planet continues to slowly open the gap to Saturn. Along with brilliant Venus, find them in the southwest after sunset. Mars is climbing into the morning sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:11 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Step outside about 45 minutes before sunrise. Spica stands over one-third of the way up in the south-southeast. Then look to the lower left. The Scorpion’s claws – Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali – are over 20° to the lower left of Spica. Mars, about 8° above the southeast horizon – is less than 15° to the lower left of the pincers. It is brighter than that stellar pair, but appearing in a brighter section of twilight, Mars may look dimmer. Use a binocular to make Mars’ identification easier. The Red Planet is 2.8° to the upper right of Graffias, the second brightest star in Scorpius. During the next few mornings, Mars closes in on the star and passes it.
Three bright planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are in the southwestern sky after sunset. As night falls, bright Jupiter is about one-third of the way up in the southern sky. Likely, it is the first one spotted.
Brilliant Venus, in the southwest, is to the lower right of Jupiter. Saturn is between them. Jupiter is 17.3° to the upper left of the Ringed Wonder.
The trio is moving eastward compared to the starry background. Venus moves fastest. In one night, it moves about as far as the two jovian giants move in nearly a week.
This evening, Jupiter moves into the constellation Aquarius. The constellation is mainly made of dim stars. Saturn continues to move eastward in Capricornus.
At two hours after sunset, the bright moon – 85% illuminated – is over halfway up in the southeast, in front of the stars of Aries. Note that it is over 20° to the right of the Pleiades star cluster.
To see the dimmer stars with Jupiter and Saturn this evening, use a binocular.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Heliacal RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.