February 2, 2022: Mars passes the top of the Teapot of Sagittarius before sunrise. After sundown, the crescent moon appears with Jupiter in the west-southwest. Venus and Mercury are in the morning sky with the Red Planet.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:02 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:07 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Mars passes the star that marks the Teapot’s lid, Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr on the chart). The stars that outline the mythological Archer are named after parts of the archer’s weapon, such as Kaus Borealis – northern part of the bow; Kaus Media – middle of the bow; Kaus Australis – southern part of the bow; and Alnasl – the point of the arrow.
The constellation figure looks more like a teapot than the half-man, half-horse of mythology. So informally, the pattern is known by the nickname.
Venus continues to dance into the morning sky. Forty-five minutes before sunrise find it over 14° above the southeast horizon.
Mars is 8.6° to the lower right of Venus and 1.6° to the upper left of Kaus Borealis. A binocular may assist in locating the Red Planet and the star.
Through the binocular, a star cluster might be dimly visible, 2.1° to the lower left of Mars. This is commonly known as Messier 22 (M 22).
The cluster type is one that is frequently referred to here in describing the nature of the Milky Way galaxy and stellar distances. It is a globular cluster. These clusters are very old. Their chemistries are different from the sun and the stars in the plane of the galaxy. They revolve around the galaxy outside the plane of the Milky Way that can be seen in areas without street lights.
The cluster may be somewhat difficult to perceive because of the level of twilight. It is worth the look. Mars, Kaus Borealis, and M 22 easily fit into the same binocular field.
Mercury is in the sky this morning, 13.6° to the lower left of Venus and about 5° above the east-southeast horizon. Use a binocular to find it.
In the evening sky, bright Jupiter and the crescent moon are together in the west-southwest after sunset. The planet is nearly 13° up in the sky. The crescent moon that is only 4% illuminated is 4.5° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant.
While not as striking as a pairing of Venus and a lunar crescent, bright Jupiter and the moon make a photogenic pair.
Use a binocular or take a long exposure photograph of the scene with a tripod-mounted camera. The night portion of the lunar crescent is gently illuminated by reflected sunlight from Earth’s terrestrial features – oceans, clouds, and land.
The photograph above shows earthshine on the moon’s night with the sunlit crescent from December 6, 2021. On that evening the crescent was about 10% illuminated.
July 26, 2022: The crescent moon makes a spectacular artistic display with Venus before sunrise. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn arc across the sky above Venus. Draco is in the north after twilight ends.Keep reading
July 25, 2022: The thin crescent moon is nearly caught between the Bull’s horns before daybreak. The four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – nearly span the sky before daybreak.Keep reading