December 27, 2021: The Red Planet Mars passes Antares this morning before sunrise. At the same hour, the moon is near Spica. The three bright planets – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the evening sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:27 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Marching eastward in Ophiuchus, Mars passes 4.5° to the upper left of Antares this morning. The star’s name means the “Rival of Mars.” The star and the planet are about the same color and brightness in the sky.
Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mars is over 10° up in the southeast. A binocular helps to locate the planet and the star. They fit into the same binocular field.
On stellar artwork, Antares marks the heart of the Scorpion.
Rust-covered Mars shines by reflected sunlight and Antares is a distant star; its color indicates its temperature.
Mars passes Antares again on December 8, 2023, but the pair is in bright morning twilight.
At this hour, the crescent moon is about 60° to the upper right of Mars. The lunar crescent – 45% illuminated – is 13.8° to the upper right of Spica.
The three bright planets are in the southwest after sunset. Brilliant Venus is rapidly catching up to our planet, on its inner orbital path. In just eleven days, the Evening Star passes between Earth and the sun. This evening Venus is about 26 million miles away. Each evening it sets 4-6 minutes earlier. This evening the planet sets 93 minutes after sunset.
Through a telescope, Venus shows an evening crescent phase that is only 5% illuminated.
Saturn is 16.7° to the upper left of Venus.
Bright Jupiter is higher in the southwest, 18.3° to the upper left of the Ringed Wonder.
Both giant planets are moving eastward compared to the stars, while Venus is retrograding along the plane of the solar system.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.