2021, December 29: Moon Nears Scorpion, Venus Departs

December 29, 2021: The morning crescent moon approaches Scorpius and Mars.  In the evening sky, four evening planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are lined up in the southwest.  Venus is rapidly leaving the evening sky.

2021, December 29: The moon approaches the Scorpion and Mars.
Chart Caption – 2021, December 29: The moon approaches the Scorpion and Mars.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:28 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

The moon – 24% illuminated – is about one-third of the way up in the south-southeastern sky before sunup. It is to the upper right of the classic pincers of the Scorpion.  Now part of Libra, Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi retain the historic connection to Scorpius.  Their names mean “the northern claw of the scorpion” and the “southern claw of the scorpion,” respectively.

The lunar slice is 5.9° to the upper right of the southern claw this morning.

Mars, over 30° to the lower left of the moon, is 4.6° to the upper left of Antares, “the rival of Mars.”  The star and the planet are nearly the same brightness and color.  This morning they easily fit into the same binocular field.

At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mars is 10° up in the southeast.

Evening Sky

2021, December 29: Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are lined up in the southwest after sunset.
Chart Caption – 2021, December 29: Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are lined up in the southwest after sunset.

Brilliant Venus is departing the evening sky.  Find it about 7° up in the southwest at 45 minutes after sunset.  If you’ve not looked for it recently, you’ll be surprised at its low altitude in the sky. It sets 83 minutes after sunset.  It is setting 4-6 minutes earlier each evening.  In less than 10 days it passes between the sun and Earth, inferior conjunction, and hops into the morning sky.

Through a telescope, Venus shows a very thin evening crescent phase that is about 4% illuminated.

Mercury is entering the evening sky.  It is 4.4° to the lower left of Evening Star Venus.

Bright Jupiter, moving eastward in Aquarius, is about one-third of the way up in the south-southwest.

Saturn, slowly crawling eastern in central Capricornus, is between Jupiter and Venus, over 17° to the upper left of Venus and over 18° to the lower right of Jupiter.

What is the last evening you find Venus?  Look each clear evening.

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