February 4, 2022: The sun is between Saturn and Earth today. This is Saturn’s conjunction. The language of sky watching.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
The Ringed Wonder Saturn is at conjunction today. It is invisible because it is hiding in the sun’s glare.
Earth has moved so that the sun is between Saturn and us.
In this frequent chronicle of the sky, the text frequently switches between language of a geocentric, stationary Earth to one of a heliocentric solar system, with all bodies in the sun’s family revolving around the central star.
Sunrise and sunset are geocentric common terms used by humanity, although these phenomena are from Earth’s hourly rotation.
Whenever the text refers to a planet moving, our observations of the sky are from Earth’s revolution around the sun. What we see is a combination of Earth and the specific planet revolving around the solar system’s star.
Mercury and Venus move much faster than Earth around the sun. Their apparent motions in the sky are largely from their orbital motions, but the outer planets’ motions are largely from Earth’s revolution.
Essentially, Mars moves around the sun about half Earth’s speed. Since they are so closely matched, Mars seems to move through the constellations at a restrained rate, taking over two years to go from one solar conjunction to the next.
Jupiter, Saturn, and the other far-flung planets don’t move much in their orbits, year after year. Jupiter revolves around the sun in about 12 years and Saturn takes 30 years to complete a year. The ninth classic planet, Pluto, revolves in over 240 years. The farther outward, the slower the pace and the longer the path around the sun.
Sometimes it is easier to describe the sky as if Earth is stationary. So, the text uses terms like planets moving eastward or westward compared to the stars or that they are climbing into the morning sky or sliding into bright twilight.
The morning sky is presenting a fascinating dance of the planets. Each morning before sunrise, the planets are in noticeably different places compared to the background stars than the previous day. Take a look toward the southeast each clear morning.
Back to Saturn.
The Ringed Wonder slowly climbs into the morning sky. On February 19, it rises at civil twilight, 29 minutes before sunup. Each morning it rises about four minutes earlier than the previous day.
By early March, the planet begins to appear in the morning sky – to the lower left of Venus and Mars.
August 1, 2022: Mars passes Uranus before sunrise. The Red Planet is part of the expanding morning planet parade. The evening crescent moon is in the western sky.Keep reading
July 31, 2022: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are scattered across the plane of the solar system before sunrise. The crescent moon, displaying earthshine, is visible in the west after sundown.Keep reading