October 25, 2021: This morning the bright gibbous moon seems to be caught between the horns of Taurus. Mercury is making its best morning appearance. The planet pack – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the evening sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:54 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning the bright gibbous moon seems to be caught between the horns of Taurus. At one hour before sunrise, the lunar orb is 60° above the west-southwest horizon. It is above a line from Elnath to Zeta Tauri, the horn stars.
The photo above shows the moon over a year ago near the Bull’s horns. (The moon and stars were nearly in the same place in the sky as this morning.) The leaves provided enough shade from the moon’s glare to see and photograph the two stars.
Farther eastward, Mercury is in this year’s best morning observing position. From our world, Mercury does not venture far from the sun. The planet was it its greatest separation from the sun this morning after midnight, but it rises 96 minutes before sunrise.
By 45 minutes before sunup, Mercury is about 9° up in the east-southeast. It is bright and easily seen without a binocular, although with the optical aid, spot the star Porrima, 3.6° to the upper right of the speedy planet.
Arcturus, low in the east-northeast, is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – as Mercury and about 30° to the left of the planet.
As the sky darkens, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southern sky. The planets are visible against the stars of Capricornus. Both are moving eastward against the stars. Yesterday’s article has a diagram showing the positions of Jupiter and Saturn compared to the starry background.
Brilliant Venus is in the southwest after sunset. It is stepping eastward compared to Ophiuchus. Use a binocular to spot the planet 2.6° to the lower right of Theta Ophiuchi. See this article with its diagram showing the nightly places of Venus compared to the star.
Detailed Daily Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (19.0d, 80%), 60° up in the west-southwest, is above a line from Elnath to ζ Tau. The lunar orb is about midway along the line. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury (m = − 0.7), nearly 9° up in the east-southeast, is 3.6° to the lower left of Porrima. Notice that Arcturus is at about the same altitude about 30° to the left of the speedy planet. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, over 11° above the southwest horizon, continues to step through Ophiuchus, 2.6° to the lower right of θ Oph. Farther eastward, Saturn is over 28° up in the south. Jupiter – at about the same altitude as Saturn – is 15.3° to the east (left) of Saturn. By two hours after sunset, Saturn is west of the meridian, at an altitude of over 28°. The Ringed Wonder is 1.3° to the lower right of υ Cap. Higher in the sky than Saturn and east of the meridian, bright Jupiter is 3.7° to the lower right of μ Cap, 2.0° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi, and 1.4° above Nashira. As midnight approaches, the moon (19.7d, 74%), 26.0° up in the east-northeast, is 3.3° to the upper left of Tejat Posterior (μ Gem, m = 2.8).
January 5, 2022: Jupiter and the crescent are 5.5° in the evening sky. Look for Mercury and Saturn with the planet-moon duo. Earlier, Venus is low in the west-southwest. Before sunrise, Mars is near Antares.
January 4, 2022: Earth is at perihelion today – it’s closest point to the sun. Mars is a morning planet, while the evening planet pack – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – and the crescent moon are in the southwest after sundown.
January 3, 2022: The moon passes Venus for the final time of this evening appearance of Venus. As night falls, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the southwest. Mars is in the southeast before sunrise.
December 30, 2021: As the year ends and the new one opens, the night sky’s brightest star – Sirius – is in the southern sky at the midnight hour.
December 31, 2021: This morning before sunup, the thin waning crescent moon appears near Mars and the star Antares. Four planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are on parade in the southwest after sundown.