2022, January 18: Saturn’s Disappearing Act

January 18, 2022: Saturn slowly leaves the evening sky.  Bright Jupiter oversees the act from higher in the southwest.  In the morning, Venus, Mars, and the moon brighten the predawn sky.

2022, January 18: Venus, Mars, and Antares are lined up along in a diagonal line in the southeast before sunrise.
Chart Caption – 2022, January 18: Venus, Mars, and Antares are lined up along in a diagonal line in the southeast before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:14 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:49 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

Venus continues to dance into the morning sky.  Forty-five minutes before sunrise find it over 5° above the east-southeast horizon.  Even at this low altitude, Venus easily shines through potential haze along the skyline.

This morning Venus rises over 80 minutes before sunup.  Each morning it rises about 5 minutes earlier.  In about a week it rises two hours before the sun.

Dimmer Mars, nearly 11° above the southeast horizon, is 19.0° to the upper right of Venus.

The star Antares – “the rival of Mars” – is 16° to the upper right of the Red Planet.  The heart of the Scorpion is over 16° up in the east-southeast. 

Venus, Mars, and Antares lie along an imaginary diagonal line in the southeast.

Through a telescope or spotting scope this morning, Venus displays a crescent phase that is 4% illuminated.  It’s quite a sight!  The planet is 26 million miles away.  In comparison, Mars is nearly 209 million miles distant.

Venus is earth-size, while Mars is only about half our home planet’s size.  Venus has highly reflective clouds, while Mars is covered with rusted dirt and some icy spots. Venus outshines Mars by over 200 times, and our nearest planet outshines all other “stars” during the nighttime hours.

2022, January 18: Before sunrise, the moon is in the west-northwest, to the upper left of Pollux and lower right of Regulus.
Chart Caption – 2022, January 18: Before sunrise, the moon is in the west-northwest, to the upper left of Pollux and lower right of Regulus.

Farther westward, the bright moon, in front of the dim stars of Cancer, is 10.6° to the upper left of Pollux and 26.6° to the lower right of Regulus.  The moon was officially at its Full phase at 5:58 p.m. CST yesterday.  It is still 100% illuminated this morning.

Evening Sky

2022, January 18: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwestern sky after sundown.
Chart Caption – 2022, January 18: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwestern sky after sundown.

In the evening sky, bright Jupiter is over 20° above the southwest horizon at 45 minutes after sundown.  Saturn, nearly 5° above the west-southwest horizon, is over 20° to the lower right of the Jovian Giant.

This could be the last evening that Saturn is visible.  Unlike Venus, that can be seen very close to the horizon, Saturn is dimmer and a challenge to see once it is below 5° in altitude. 

The thicker atmosphere near the horizon, makes the stars look dimmer.  Clouds, haze and other atmospheric effects near the skyline make the observation a challenge.  The planet may be visible under exceptionally clear conditions and if observed from a hilltop or elevated structure.  Observers with binoculars or telescopes may track it for a few more evenings before it is below the horizon at this time interval after sundown in nine evenings.  This evening the planet sets over 80 minutes after sun leaves the sky.

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