February 7, 2022: Venus, Mercury, and Mars shine in the southeast before sunup. Jupiter is low in the west-southwest and the moon is high in the sky after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:56 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:14 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Venus, Mercury, and Mars are low in the southeast before sunrise. The morning planet dance continues.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines brightly from over 15° up in the southeast at forty-five minutes before sunrise. Through a spotting scope or telescope, the planet displays a morning crescent that is 21% illuminated. Venus is in its interval of greatest brightness. It won’t shine any brighter during the rest of its morning appearance that runs until early autumn.
Mercury is brightening each morning for the next several days. At this hour, it is over 5° up in the east-southeast, over 13° to the lower left of Venus. A binocular may be needed to initially spot it. The speedy planet bounces back and forth between the morning sky and evening sky. It reaches its greatest separation (elongation) from the sun on February 16. It then recedes into bright sunlight.
Mars is moving eastward faster than Venus, after the brilliant planet resumed its eastward direction on January 30. The Red Planet overtakes and passes Venus on February 16. The conjunction is wide, 6.2°. This morning, find Mars, 7.3° to the lower right of Venus. Both may snugly fit into a binocular field.
After the sky darkens, Jupiter is “that bright star,” low in the west-southwest. It appears lower in the sky each evening. This evening at forty-five minutes after sunset, the Jovian Giant is under 9° above the horizon. It sets 98 minutes after sundown.
Jupiter is bright enough to be seen very close to the horizon, unlike Saturn. If you have a clear, unobstructed view toward the west-southwest horizon, you can watch Jupiter set in the same way you might watch a sunset.
At this hour, the moon – 44% illuminated – is over two-thirds of the way up above the south-southwest horizon. It is in front of dim stars of Aries. The brightest is about the brightness of the stars in the Big Dipper. Hamal – “the full-grown lamb” – is 12.5° to the upper right of the moon.
The moon is bright enough to cast shadows and it may be necessary to block its glare with your hand to see the dimmer stars and the star clusters this evening. The lunar orb is at its First Quarter phase tomorrow morning at 7:50 a.m. CST.
Menkar, in Cetus, is over 11° to the lower left of the lunar light. The star represents the nostril of the sea monster.
This evening the Pleiades star cluster and Hyades star cluster are above the moon. The Hyades, along with Aldebaran, make the “V” of Taurus that outlines the Bull’s head.
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