For all the stargazing diehards, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus will be visible every evening until this Friday. The planets will be visible around sunset. To see this spectacular planet line up, look southwest right before sunset (usually around 4:30 pm).
Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus will be lined up just above the constellation for Sagittarius. Jupiter will be the highest in the line and the second brightest. Saturn will be the darkest planet and will be in the middle of the line. Venus will be the lowest and brightest planet. The Moon will be joining the planets in their line, starting off near Venus and ending near Jupiter. This Friday, all four will stretch across the sky in a straight line. They’ll appear to be evenly spaced from each other, which should help make them more noticeable. The phenomenon that makes them appear in a straight line is referred to as the ecliptic, or the plane that all of the planets travel around the sun.
As the week continues and the Moon moves, it will also get brighter. 35% of the Moon should be illuminated tomorrow night, compared to 16% illumination earlier this week.
If you’re unsure about which way to look, or what constellations or planets you’re looking at, there are several apps available to help. Stargazing apps will use your location to accurately show you the names and locations of the stars visible to you.
Venus Ends Its Trek Across the Night Sky
December has been a busy month for Venus. Our solar system’s brightest planet will be dipping just below the sunset point by the end of this month, and then starting its faster and smaller orbit around the Sun. As Venus and Earth near each other during their trips around the sun, Venus will get bigger in the sky. This is the perfect time to pull out the family telescope and take a peek. Even though we’ll be closer to Venus as December continues, we will see less of Venus as it wanes.
2021’s Astronomical Amount of Stargazing Events
2021 has been quite the year for looking upwards. There’s been a multitude of special moon phases and meteor showers to see. Still to come are the Geminid Meteors and the Ursid Meteors. The Geminid Meteors are considered to be the best meteor shower that happens annually because viewers can see up to 60 meteors per hour. This year the Geminid meteor shower is closely aligning with a new moon, so the sky will be extra dark for better visibility. Conversely, the Ursid Meteor shower will only have around 10 meteors visible per hour at its peak.
For the best chance to see any celestial event, make sure you find a spot away from light pollution, and give your eyes a break from your phone. It may take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Happy viewing!