2022, January 15:  Saturn, Mercury Slow Fade

January 15, 2022: Saturn and Mercury are slowly fading into bright twilight.  Jupiter stands in the southwest after sunset.  The bright moon is farther eastward.  Morning Star Venus is beginning to appear with Mars before sunrise.

2022, January 15: Bright Jupiter is in the southwest after sunset, with Saturn and Mercury.
Chart Caption – 2022, January 15: Bright Jupiter is in the southwest after sunset, with Saturn and Mercury.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:16 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:45 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

From the sunrise and sunset times, note that the length of daylight increases to 9 hours, 30 minutes during the next few days at the mid-northern latitudes.  This is an increase of over 20 minutes since the winter solstice on December 21.

In the evening sky, Saturn and Mercury are sliding into brighter evening twilight. After sunset, find them low in the west-southwest.  Mercury is nearing its inferior conjunction with the sun on January 22, followed by a brief morning appearance.  Mercury sets 75 minutes after sunset.

Saturn is to the upper left of Mercury. It is heading toward its solar conjunction on February 4th and its reappearance into the morning sky, joining a planet dance with Venus and Mars in the southeastern sky before sunrise. This evening Saturn follows Mercury to the horizon about 20 minutes after Mercury sets.

If you have a cloud-free, unobstructed horizon, the planet pair might be visible without an optical assist.  Use a binocular to initially find them.  What is the last date you see each planet?

Morning Sky

2022, January 15: Venus appears higher in the sky each morning. Mars is to its upper right.
Chart Caption – 2022, January 15: Venus appears higher in the sky each morning. Mars is to its upper right.

Venus is entering a darker sky, appearing just above the east-southeast horizon at 45 minutes before sunrise. This planet is easy to spot when near the horizon.  The brilliant planet rises six minutes earlier than the previous day for the next few mornings.

At this hour Mars is nearly 11° up in the southeastern sky, over 22° to the upper right of Venus and nearly 14° to the lower left of Antares. 

Mars moves slower through the sky than Venus.  It rises one minute earlier every two days.  The Red Planet is seemingly slow to appear higher in the pre-dawn sky.

Evening Sky

Forty-five minutes after sunset, bright Jupiter stands nearly 24° up in the southwest.  It is the brightest “star” in this evening’s sky.  The planet is slowly moving eastward in front of the dim stars of Aquarius.

As noted earlier, Saturn and Mercury are lower in the west-southwest at this hour.  Saturn is 20.0° to the lower right of Jupiter and Mercury is 4.1° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder.

The star Fomalhaut – “the mouth of the southern fish – is about 20° to the lower left of Jupiter.

Farther eastward, the bright moon is at the feet of Gemini.

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