December 30, 2021: The morning crescent moon seems to be captured in the Scorpion’s pincers to the upper right of Mars. Four Evening Planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are in the southwest after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:29 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The moon – 15% illuminated – seems to be captured in the Scorpion’s claws – Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi – this morning. Today these stars are part of Libra, although they are shown in many astronomical artwork pieces as part of the classic Scorpion.
The lunar slice is nearly 9° to the upper right of Dschubba, the critter’s forehead.
At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mars is over 10° above the southeastern horizon and 4.9° to the upper left of Antares, known as the “Rival of Mars.”
Four bright planets are visible in the southwest after sunset. Venus is quickly departing the evening sky as it rapidly moves toward its inferior conjunction, between Earth and the sun.
At forty-five minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is only 5° up in the southwest. If you have not looked for it for a few days, it might be behind a neighbor’s house or building.
Venus and nearby Mercury set at 76 minutes after sunset. Venus is setting six minutes earlier each evening. Through a small telescope or spotting scope, Venus is showing a thin evening crescent that is only 3% illuminated.
At this hour Mercury is 5.4° to the left of the Evening Star. It is bright enough to be seen without a binocular. It is dimmer than Venus and Jupiter, but brighter than Saturn. Find a clear horizon to the southwest to see Venus and Mercury.
Bright Jupiter is about one-third of the way up in the sky above the south-southwest horizon. If you have used a telescope or spotting scope to look at the phase of Venus, then turn it toward Jupiter and Saturn.
At Jupiter, all four of Jupiter’s moons are visible at this hour from the western hemisphere. Three are west of the planet.
Jupiter is 18.5° to the upper left of Saturn, that seems to be about halfway from Venus to Jupiter.
Through a telescope, Saturn’s ring is easily visible.
Jupiter is moving eastward in front of the stars of Aquarius. Saturn is slowly moving eastward near the center of Capricornus.
Look earlier for Venus tomorrow evening. What is the last date that you see it before it disappears from the evening sky?
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- 2023, October 13: Moon’s Last Glimpse, Bright Morning PlanetsOctober 13, 2023: Before tomorrow’s eclipse, see a razor-thin moon before sunrise. Venus and Jupiter shine brightly during morning twilight.
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- 2023, October 11: Morning Earthshine, LeoOctober 11, 2023: The morning’s thin lunar crescent displays earthshine as it appears near the constellation Leo.