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.
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.