January 6, 2022: Planet Mercury nears its evening greatest elongation. It appears in the evening sky, with a crescent moon, Jupiter, and Saturn. Venus sets soon after sundown. Mars is in the southeast before sunup.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:35 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mars is in the southeast before sunup. About three months after its solar conjunction, the Red Planet is noticeably beyond Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius.
Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mars is nearly 11° up in the southeast and 8.2° to the lower left of Antares. The star is brighter than the planet.
The planet-star pair is no longer visible in the same binocular field of view.
Mars is over 200 million miles away and appears dimmer in the sky than when it is near Earth when our planet is between Mars and the sun – known as opposition.
Two days before its inferior conjunction – between Earth and sun – Venus is 5° above the sunset point when the sun departs the sky. The planet sets 30 minutes after sundown.
After inferior conjunction, Venus races into the morning sky, appearing with Mars around mid-month.
Forty-five minutes after sunset, the crescent moon, 22% illuminated, is in a line with Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury.
The moon is over 30° up in the south-southwest. Bright Jupiter is nearly 12° to the lower right of the lunar crescent.
Approaching its evening greatest elongation, Mercury is over 7° up in the southwest, over 25° to the lower right of Jupiter.
Greatest occurs elongation when either Venus or Mercury appear farthest from the sun. Mercury seems to hug the central star, bouncing from morning to evening sky and back again to the morning. It pops out of bright sunlight, stops, and returns back into the sun’s glare. When the planet at its best appearances, it is near its greatest separation or elongation from the sun. Tomorrow morning’s greatest elongation, occurs at 5:04 a.m. CST. Mercury is not in the sky from the western hemisphere at this time.
Saturn is 6.7° to the upper left of Mercury.
Look for these bright planets in the southwest for the next several evenings. Mercury slowly dims and disappears back into sunlight.
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