January 8, 2022: Venus passes between Earth and the sun – inferior conjunction – today. Mars continues its slow climb into the morning sky. Three bright planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury – are in the southwest after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:36 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Venus is at inferior conjunction today at 6:48 p.m. CST. As seen from space, Venus is between the sun and Earth. The three solar system features are in a line. However, from Earth, they are not in the same plane. Venus is nearly 5° above the sun at conjunction time.
For experienced observers, the planet is less than one binocular field above the sun at noon, when the sun is highest.
Warning, never point an optical instrument directly at the sun without proper solar filters. The intense sunlight can melt the internal optics, coatings, and glues that hold the components together, let alone damage the human eye.
Nonetheless, the planet can be observed under the proper precautions.
After inferior conjunction, Venus seemingly jumps into the morning sky. In only a week, the brilliant planet rises 64 minutes before sunrise, appearing nearly 6° up in the southeast at 30 minutes before sunup. It joins Mars as one of the bright planets that are visible without optical assistance.
Mars continues its slow entry into the morning sky. It over 10° above the southeastern horizon at 45 minutes before sunrise. It is not as bright is might be expected. The planet is 9.4° to the lower left of brighter Antares – the star that represents the heart of Scorpius.
Now outside the same binocular field, Mars continues its eastward March compared to the stars of Ophiuchus.
With Venus departing the evening sky, three bright planets are in the southwest after sundown. Bright Jupiter is less than 30° up in the southwest. It is moving eastward in front of the stars of Aquarius.
Mercury is lower, about 8° up in the southwest, at this hour, and nearly 25° to the lower right of Jupiter.
Saturn is 5.0° to the upper left of Mercury. In four evenings, Mercury moves to 3.4° of Saturn. Faster-moving Mercury does not pass Saturn to qualify for a conjunction. The alignment is called a “quasi-conjunction” because to two are within 5°, a near conjunction.
Spot Mercury and Saturn before they set. Mercury sets about 90 minutes after sunset, while Saturn follows over 30 minutes later.
When you step outside to look for the planets, the thick crescent moon, 42% illuminated, may first catch your eye. It is over halfway up in the southern sky in front of the stars of Cetus, the Sea Monster. The moon reaches its First Quarter phase tomorrow at 12:11 p.m. CST.
January 2, 2023: Bright winter stars are in the western sky before sunrise. After sundown, four planets, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, along with the moon are visible.Keep reading
January 1, 2023: The Scorpion crawls into the southeastern sky before sunrise. After sunset, four bright planets and gibbous moon are along an arc across the sky.Keep reading
December 31, 2022: Mercury begins to depart the evening sky, leaving four bright planets – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars on display for New Year’s Eve.Keep reading