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2022, January 12:  Mercury – Saturn Near Conjunction

Saturn (NASA)

Photo Caption: Saturn (NASA)

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January 12, 2022:  Mercury moves to 3.4° from Saturn.  This quasi-conjunction, or near conjunction, of the two planets is visible in southwest about 45 minutes after sunset.  Jupiter is to Saturn’s upper left.  The bright moon is near the Pleiades.  Before sunrise, look for Mars low in the southeast.  Venus is becoming visible during bright twilight.

Chart Caption – 2022, January 12: Mercury closes to 3.4° of Saturn, a quasi-conjunction. Jupiter is to the upper left of Saturn.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

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Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:42 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

This evening Mercury is 3.4° to the lower right of Saturn.  The speedy planet was at its greatest elongation on January 7.  Mercury’s eastward motion ends tomorrow and it begins to retrograde. 

As it begins to move westward compared to the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system – it reaches its closest point to Saturn.  Any close grouping of planets that is within 5.0° is known as a quasi-conjunction or near conjunction.

Tomorrow when Mercury ends its eastward direction, it moves slightly farther north and Saturn gently moves slightly eastward in Capricornus.  The separation is a little larger than this evening.  If you miss them this evening, they are nearly the same separation tomorrow evening.

Look for them at about 45 minutes after sunset.  Saturn is higher in the sky, nearly 9° up in the west-southwest.  Mercury is slightly brighter and to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder.

A binocular helps to initially identify them.

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, January 12: Mars is in the southeast before sunrise, to the lower left of Antares.

Mars continues its slow climb into the morning sky.  It moves eastward in Ophiuchus.  At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the Red Planet is over 10° above the southeast horizon and 12.0° to the lower left of the brighter star Antares, the heart of the Scorpion.

Venus is becoming visible during bright twilight.  From a spot with a very clear horizon, it is about 2° above the skyline at 30 minutes before sunrise. Each morning it rises six minutes earlier.  It appears higher in the sky at the same time each morning.  In four to five mornings, it can be seen low in the sky at forty-five minutes before sunrise, when Mars is visible.

Evening Sky

Jupiter is “the bright star” to the upper left of the Mercury – Saturn quasi-conjunction.  The Jovian Giant, about 25° up in the southwest, is nearly 20° to the upper left of Saturn.

Jupiter is moving eastward among the dim stars of Aquarius.

Farther eastward, the moon is in front of the stars of Taurus.  This evening, use a binocular to spot the Pleiades star cluster about 5° to the upper left of the lunar orb.

Both fit into the same field of view.  Once you spot the cluster and the moon in the same field, move the binocular slightly to move the moon out of the view to see the cluster without the moon’s glare.

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