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Wednesday, 27 January 2021  •  Tuesday, 13 Rowan Moon 2021 (night)


Watching the night sky in Rowan Moon 2021

14 January - 11 February 2021

Map of night sky at full moon: 28 January, 19:16 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Rowan Moon 2021

Mars is bright in the evening sky and sets in the early hours. With most of the other planets hard to see this month, especially from northern lands, this is the one to watch. On 20 January it passes 1.5°N of Uranus, giving us a great opportunity to see the ice giant Uranus. It is just too faint to see with the naked eye, but you should get a good view through binoculars or a telescope.

On 24 January, Mercury reaches 19°E of the sun in the western evening sky, not well seen from northern lands; it rides much higher in the skies of the south of the Earth due to the angle of the ecliptic at this time of year. On the evening of 14 January, it may be possible to see the new crescent moon in the sky, with, as seen from northern lands, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn to its right. Of the three, Jupiter is much the brightest. Mars is round in the south (north, as seen from southern lands). Jupiter and Saturn are heading rapidly into the sunset as they move towards the far side of the sun. A few days into the lunar month, they fall out of view.

Venus is low down in the morning sky, over towards the far side of the sun. Saturn re-emerges into the dawn sky by the end of the lunar month, and on the morning of 5 February, Venus passes a third of a degree south of it. This conjunction will be better seen from the southern hemisphere, and even so Saturn will be hard to see.

Right at the end of the month, Jupiter also appears above the dawn twilight as seen from southern lands. On 8 February, Venus is between Saturn and Jupiter, Venus much the brightest of the three. On 11 February, again not visible from northern lands, Venus passes less than half a degree south of Jupiter.



The month ahead: Ash Moon 2021

12 February - 13 March 2021

Map of night sky at full moon: 27 February, 08:17 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ash Moon 2021

Mars is in the evening sky, setting around midnight. It gets gradually fainter as it moves further towards the far side of the sun, and thus away from Earth. On 19 February, the half moon is between Mars and the red star Aldebaran, the bull’s eye of Taurus. Nearby are the beautiful Pleiades. Mars is south of the Pleiades on 4 March. On 8 March, Mars is in between the Pleiades and Aldebaran. You can judge the fading of Mars, as it moves away from Earth: on 19 February Mars is somewhat brighter than Aldebaran, whereas by 4 March, the star is brighter than the planet.

Jupiter climbs into the eastern morning sky, with Saturn a little ahead, further above the dawn. Jupiter is brighter than Saturn, being nearer Earth and quite a bit bigger. While Jupiter and Saturn are our system’s largest two planets by far, Jupiter is also bigger than all the other planets put together, including Saturn. After their close pass (a line of sight effect) on 21 December, they are gradually moving further apart, as Jupiter moves faster through the stars than Saturn. They don’t meet again until 2040.

On 6 March, Mercury reaches 27°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky, near the brighter Jupiter, making this a good opportunity to see the elusive Mercury, though as seen from northern lands the planets are low in the SE. On 5 March, Mercury passes just a third of a degree north of Jupiter. If you look through good binoculars, you may be able to make out that half of Mercury is in shadow as seen from Earth. Saturn is a little further out from the sunrise, less bright than Jupiter and Mercury. The moon is south of Jupiter and Saturn on 10 March. Venus is out of view on the far side of the sun.



William Morris
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