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2021, December 28:  Venus Slips, Mercury Hops

It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s shrinking. New NASA-funded research suggests that Mercury is contracting even today, joining Earth as a tectonically active planet.

It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s shrinking. New NASA-funded research suggests that Mercury is contracting even today, joining Earth as a tectonically active planet. (NASA photo)

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December 28, 2021:  Brilliant Venus is quickly slipping from the evening sky.  Mercury appears beneath Venus after sunset.  This duo is joined by Jupiter and Saturn.  In the morning, Mars is near Antares and the moon near Spica.

Chart Caption – 2021, December 28: The morning crescent moon is 4.6° to the upper left of Spica.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:27 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

The crescent moon, 35% illuminated, is 4.6° to the upper left of Spica this morning.  Step outside about 45 minutes before sunup. 

Chart Caption – 2021, December 28: Mars is low in the southeast, near Antares, before sunup.

At this hour, Mars is low in the southeast, about 45° to the lower left of the lunar crescent. Look for it over 11° above the southeast horizon.  It is not as bright as expected and a binocular may help to first locate it. 

Yesterday, Mars passed Antares.  Mars is a little farther away this morning, 4.5° to the upper left of the star.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2021, December 28: Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are in the southwest after sunset.

Brilliant Venus is quickly slipping from the evening sky.  In ten days, it moves between Earth and the sun, moving into the morning sky.  At forty-five minutes after sunset, the Evening Star is only 7° up in the sky.  Each evening watch it appear lower.  In a week, it is not visible at this time interval after sunset.

As Venus leaves the evening sky, Mercury is entering.  This evening, find it 4.2° to the lower left of the Evening Star.

Mercury joins Saturn and Jupiter.  Saturn is 17.2° to the upper left of Venus and Jupiter is 18.3° to the upper left of the Ringed Wonder.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury are moving eastward compared to the starry background, while Venus is retrograding along the plane of the solar system.

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