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When, where and how to see the planets in the 2021 night sky

 When will we be able to see the planets at their best during this upcoming year of 2021?  This guide will tell you. It will also provide information as to when a particular planet might be passing near to another, or a bright star, as well as the constellation that each will occupy during the course of the year as well as the various circumstances — conjunctions, oppositions, and elongations — that are on this upcoming year's schedule. 

So buckle up and mark your 2021 calendars. Here are the amazing planet sights to look for this year! 

Related: The 10 Must-See Skywatching Events of 2021

Mercury

NASA

As an evening star, Mercury appears in the western sky setting about an hour after the sun. As a morning star, it appears in the eastern sky rising about an hour before the sun. There must be a clear, unobstructed horizon on these occasions. Mercury usually appears as a bright "star" with a yellowish or ochre hue.  Evenings from January 15 to January 31; mornings from February 28 to March 20; evenings from May 3 to May 24; mornings from June 27 to July 16; evenings from August 31 to September 21; mornings from October 18 to November 1.  

Mercury will be brightest and easiest to spot in the evening sky between May 3 and May 24; brightest and easiest to spot in the morning sky between October 18 and Nov. 1. 

On the morning of March 5, about a half hour before sunup, Mercury will appear just to the left of Jupiter. Both planets will hover low above the east-southeast horizon. Use binoculars.  

Venus

NASA/JPL

Venus is always brilliant, and shining with a steady, silvery light. It is visible in the morning in the eastern sky at dawn from Jan. 1 to 23. It appears in the evening in the western sky at dusk from May 24 to Dec. 31. When the year opens, it will be visible very low near the east-southeast horizon about 90 minutes before sunrise. Within several weeks it moves too close to the sun to be seen. Superior conjunction is on March 26. 

Venus will be out of view until late spring when it emerges above the west-northwest horizon soon after sunset. It will gradually increase in prominence through the balance of the year. Its greatest angular distance (elongation) east of the sun is on Oct. 29. 

Venus will attain its greatest brilliancy in the evening sky on Dec. 5; an eye-popping magnitude of -4.7. Through December, Venus will resemble a striking crescent phase, getting progressively larger and thinner in telescopes and steadily-held binoculars.  On the evening of May 12, about a half hour after sundown, look low to west-northwest horizon for an attractive celestial tableau against the backdrop of a bright twilight sky: Venus sitting closely to the right of an exceedingly narrow (1% illuminated) waxing crescent moon. Use binoculars.  

On the evening of July 13, Venus will stand very closely above a much fainter Mars.  On the evening of Nov. 19, Venus will pass very close to the lower left of the 2nd-magnitude star Nunki in Sagittarius.

Mars

NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI)

Shining like a "star" with a yellow-orange hue, Mars can vary considerably in brightness. It will be visible in the evening from Jan. 1 through Aug. 22; and in the morning from Nov.r 24 through Dec. 31. Coming off a spectacular autumn apparition in 2020, when Mars came within 38.6 million miles (62.1 million km) of Earth and briefly became the third brightest object in the night sky, this planet has since fallen behind Earth and is receding, growing smaller and dimmer each night. On New Year's Day it resembles the brilliant star Arcturus, both in terms of color and brightness; thus, is at its brightest at the very start of the year. Positioned against the stars of Pisces, Mars is high in the south-southeast at nightfall and will not set until 1:30 a.m. 

In the weeks and months to come, as Mars pulls farther away from Earth its brightness diminishes. By mid-May it has dropped to the rank of second-magnitude and it is setting before midnight. When it finally disappears into the sunset fires in late August, it will have receded to 243 million miles (391 million km) away. It then goes on a "sabbatical" of sorts, through the balance of the summer and well into the fall. It finally reappears late in November, low in the east-southeast sky.  

By New Year's Eve, it will be rising around 5:30 a.m., shining at magnitude +1.5 among the stars of the non-zodiacal constellation of Ophiuchus. It will be well on its way toward another bright opposition which will take place almost a year later on December 8, 2022.  Mars will appear rather close to a 16% waxing crescent moon as they descend the west-northwest sky on the evening of May 15. On the evening of July 13, Mars will stand very closely below a much brighter Venus.  On the evening of July 30, Mars will pass closely above the 1st magnitude star Regulus in Leo.

Jupiter

A. Simon/NASA/ESA

Jupiter is quite brilliant with a silver-white luster. Evenings from Jan. 1 to 9; mornings from Feb. 17 to Aug. 19; evenings again from Aug. 20 to Dec. 31. Through all of 2021, the king of the planets will be situated against the star background of Capricornus the Sea Goat. Jupiter will shine like a dazzling, non-twinkling, silvery “star.” 

Brightest in 2021:  Aug. 8 to Sept. 2. Jupiter is at opposition to the Sun on August 20, shining at a dazzling magnitude of -2.9. On the morning of March 5, about a half hour before sunup, Jupiter will appear just to the right of Mercury. Both planets will hover low above the east-southeast horizon. Use binoculars. 

Saturn

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn shines like a yellowish-white "star" of moderate brightness. 

Its famous rings are only visible in a telescope. They were at their maximum tilt toward Earth in October 2017 and are now closing to our line of sight.  

All through 2021, Saturn will be found within the boundaries of Capricornus the Sea Goat. Evenings from January 1 to 6; Mornings from February 10 to August 1; evenings again from August 2 to December 31.  

Brightest in 2021: August 1 to August 4. Saturn is at opposition to the Sun on August 2, glowing as brightly as the similar hued star Capella at magnitude +0.1. 

Uranus

NASA

Uranus can be glimpsed as a naked-eye object by people who are blessed with good eyesight and a clear, dark sky, as well as a forehand knowledge of exactly where to look for it. It shines at magnitude +5.7 and can be readily identified with good binoculars. A small telescope may reveal its tiny, greenish disk.  

 Uranus spends all of 2021 in the constellation of Aries the Ram.  Evenings from January 1 to April 12; mornings from May 16 to November 3; evenings again from November 4 to December 31. 

Brightest in 2021:  August 28 to December 31. Uranus will arrive at opposition to the Sun on November 4.  

Neptune

NASA

Neptune spends all of 2021 in the constellation of Aquarius the Water Carrier.  At a peak magnitude of +7.8, this bluish-hued world is only visible with good binoculars or a telescope. Evenings from January 1 through February 23; mornings from March 27 through September 13; evenings again from September 14 to December 31. 

Brightest in 2021: July 19 to November 8. Opposition is on September 14. 

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers' Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers' Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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  • rod
    Admin said:
    Here is a aB68PC7FWchFK83t6zMXhLe to when certain planets will appear brightest and most visible in the 2020 night sky, including a dazzling conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 21!

    When, Where and How to See the Planets in the 2020 Night Sky : Read more

    "aB68PC7FWchFK83t6zMXhLe", I have no idea what this means :) However, I do have my 2020, Skygazer's Almanac for upcoming celestial events to view this year. I also use Starry Night and Stellarium software too. Yesterday evening I enjoyed some very fine views of the waxing crescent Moon and Venus near and after sunset on New Year's Day. This morning close to 0600 EST, I enjoyed some views of Mars too, tracking for sometime as Mars approaches opposition in October this year. Using quality telescopes and good planetary ephemeris, you can observe the heliocentric solar system in motion :)
    Reply
  • chaii latte
    In the mars section it says " Mars will pass close to jupiter on May 20 and Saturn on May 31" when this happened in March.
    Reply
  • That would be bad ,?
    Reply