February 2-9, 2022: Mercury joins Venus and Mars as morning planets in the southeast before sunrise. Mars moves in for its conjunction with Venus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
For about a week, Mercury closes in to about 13° from brilliant Morning Star Venus. On the same mornings, Mars moves toward its conjunction with Venus on February 16.
Mercury is moving into the morning sky after its inferior conjunction – between Earth and sun – on January 23. The planet quickly enters the morning sky, reaching its greatest separation from the sun on February 16, appearing 26.3° west of the sun.
The accompanying chart shows the three planets on February 6. On this morning brilliant Venus is over 15° above the southeastern horizon. Mars is 7.6° to the lower right of Venus. The gap between the two planets is too wide for both of them to appear in a binocular’s field of view.
Venus stopped retrograding two mornings ago. It is slowly moving eastward compared to the background stars. Mars is moving consistently faster as it overtakes the brilliant planet.
Mars passed the star Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr on the chart) on February 2. The Red Planet is 3.9° to the lower left of the star this morning.
The gap of the impending conjunction is wide, 6.2°, but both fit into a binocular field. A third conjunction of Venus and Mars occurs on March 6 when Venus picks up eastward speed and passes the Red Planet.
Speedy Mercury is 13.0° to the lower left of Venus, and over 5° above the horizon. A binocular may be needed to initially locate the planet. It brightens each morning, but the gap widens between the two inner planets, especially after February 9th .
Each morning look to the southeast, to watch the three dancing planets appear in different spots in the sky.
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