Venus embraces the Pleiades, and 444 light-years apart they meet every eight years. Beijing, China, … [+]
Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
It’s a great week for watching two of the night sky’s most interesting objects approach each other.
Mars is way past its best, and yet this unmistakably rosy red planet this month has the night sky all to itself.
Each night this week you can watch it move slowly through the constellation of Taurus, the Bull, though as luck would have it, it will appear to be just below the Pleiades open cluster—one of the most beautiful sights in the night sky—all this week, and closest on Wednesday.
Though much of this week we’ll have to contend with a waning full Moon, our satellite reaches first quarter on Friday, which sees it begin to rise after midnight. That will leave the night skies dark and perfect for stargazing.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021: Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn in the morning sky.
If you’re awake before dawn, look low to the eastern horizon and with binoculars you’ll see Mercury about 2º from Jupiter and Saturn a further 8º away to the south.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021: Mars and the Pleiades in the evening sky.
Look to the southwestern sky about two hours after sunset tonight and you’ll see Mars 2.6° south of the sparkling Pleiades star cluster (also known as M45).
You can see this arresting sight best through binoculars, and every night this week, though tonight the red planet is the closest it gets to the blue stars of M45.
Friday, March 5, 2021: Jupiter and Mercury in conjunction in the morning sky.
Early risers get to see the Solar Systems’ largest and smallest planet in a close conjunction this morning.
Look low to the eastern horizon before dawn and with binoculars you’ll see Mercury and Jupiter separated by a mere 0.3°.
This weekend sees Mercury climb as high in the morning sky as it ever does as it shines 27.3° degrees west of the Sun.
The phases of the Moon.
At 01:30 Universal Time today our satellite will reach its Last Quarter phase. It essentially means that the Moon rises after midnight, clearing the way for 10 successive evenings of dark, moonless skies that are perfect for stargazing.
This is the constellation of Auriga. Look just to the side of Capella at the top and you’ll see a … [+]
Look high above right after dark and you’ll easily see the sixth-brightest “star” in the night sky, Capella—the “Little Goat.” Capella is actually a quadruple star system, dominated by two bright yellow giant stars. It’s about 43 light-years away and the brightest point of light in the constellation of Auriga.
The constellation itself is a rather simple hexagon, but look just to the side of Capella and you’ll see a narrow, stretched triangle of stars. This is the “Kids” asterism.
Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer writing about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel,