2022: The morning sky is full of planet activity. Morning Star Venus passes Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Look eastward for the dance of planets before sunrise during the year.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
The chart above marks conjunctions and groupings of the five bright planets, moon, and bright stars in the eastern sky before sunrise. Many thanks to Robert C. Victor for his kind comments and suggestions for additions to the chart.
This article summaries the events displayed on the chart above: 2022: Morning Star Venus with Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn
Venus (m = −4.3) makes a grand entrance into the morning sky after its inferior conjunction on January 8 at 6:48 p.m. CST. In only two mornings, it rises at Civil Twilight and by January 15, it rises at Nautical Twilight. The planet continues its steep climb into the morning sky, rising at the beginning of morning twilight on January 21, brightening along the way.
Meanwhile, Mars (m =1.5) begins the year about 8° up in the southeastern sky, at one hour before sunrise, 5.5° to the left of Antares (α Sco, m = 1.0). The Red Planet wanders eastward at about 0.7° each day.
Saturn passes its solar conjunction with the sun (February 4) and crawls into the morning sky. By March 7, it rises an hour before the sun.
Jupiter’s conjunction follows on March 5. Because of its brightness (m = −2.0), the Jovian Giant can be seen shining low in the sky later in the month.
During February and March, Venus passes Mars for its second and third conjunctions of a triple conjunction that started last year before the Martian solar conjunction. Venus passes Saturn (March 29) and Mars passes Saturn (April 5). At the end of March, the trio fits into a binocular field.
Venus passes Neptune in a very close conjunction (26 arc minutes) on April 27.
As Jupiter enters the morning sky, Venus passes for a close conjunction at the end of April and Mars during May.
During mid-to-late June, there is an opportunity to spot the five naked-eye planets stretching across the sky from east-northeast to the south. Because this occurs during a long spell of morning twilight, the best morning might be June 27, when the thin crescent moon is 3.7° to the left of Mercury.
Mercury shuttles from morning sky to evening sky and back again. The speedy planet’s morning elongations are February 16, June 16, and October 8. Mercury makes its best morning appearance during October as Venus departs the morning sky.
While the chart mainly shows the activity in the eastern morning sky, up to five hours before sunrise, the Saturn Setting circles and Jupiter Setting circles show activity in the western sky before sunrise. When these planets set at sunrise, they are at their oppositions with the sun. Two other oppositions are noted on the chart: Venus – Saturn and Venus – Jupiter.
A planet-planet opposition in the morning sky predicts the last date when the two planets are visible together. Venus is at the eastern skyline and one giant planet is at the western horizon. The Venus – Saturn opposition occurs August 28, followed by the Venus – Jupiter event on October 1. On these dates, the ecliptic longitude difference is 180°.
Because Saturn is dimmer, it slips out of view as it descends toward the horizon. On the other hand with clear horizons, the opposition of Venus and Jupiter might be visible because of the planets’ visual intensities.
By year’s end, the morning sky is without any of the naked eye planets.
The chart above shows the rising time interval of Venus compared to sunrise. Rising times intervals are included for Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The rising time intervals of bright stars near the ecliptic – Antares, Aldebaran, Pollux, Regulus, and Spica – are included as well. The moon’s rising time interval is marked by circles. The time intervals for the three phases of twilight are included as well.
It should be noted that when the rising time of two celestial bodies are the same, their curves cross or the moon circle appears on a curve, those celestial bodies rise at the same time. Celestial bodies that are far apart can rise at the same time. For example, on August 27, 2022, Venus and Sirius rise at about the same time, but they are over 45° apart on the horizon. Sirius is not included on this chart because it is not near the ecliptic.
Data is from the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.
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