February 11, 2022: Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in the west-southwest after sundown. The moon looks like it’s being kicked by Castor.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:52 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:19 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The morning planet dance continues with Venus, Mercury, and Mars in the southeastern sky at 45 minutes before sunrise.
Venus entered the morning sky after its inferior conjunction on January 8. Its retrograde motion ended January 30 and the planet is slowly moving eastward compared to the background stars.
Mars is overtaking Venus to pass it on February 16. The conjunction is fairly wide, 6.2°. This is the second conjunction of three meetings that began as Mars left the evening sky last summer.
This morning Venus is nearly 16° above the southeast horizon, with dimmer Mars 6.7° to its lower right.
Yesterday, the Red Planet passed the star Nunki, in the handle of the Teapot. This morning they are separated by 2.8°.
Bright Mercury is 13.6° to the lower left of Venus. The speedy planet is only 5° above the east-southeast horizon. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation – largest separation from the sun as seen from Earth – for this morning appearance on the same morning as the Venus – Mars conjunction.
Find a clear horizon to the east-southeast to find Mercury. A binocular may help to initially find the planet.
Mercury’s gap to Venus increases quickly as the speedy planet plunges back into bright morning twilight.
Bright Jupiter is slowly slipping into evening twilight, bound for its solar conjunction on March 5. Each evening the planet sets about four minutes earlier than the previous evening. This evening about 45 minutes after sundown, the bright planet is only 6° above the west-southwest horizon.
Unlike Saturn, that left the evening sky last month, Jupiter is bright enough to be seen close to the horizon. If you have a clear, unobstructed view in that direction, what is the last date that you see the Jovian Giant?
As the sky darkens further, the bright moon – 81% illuminated – shines from high in the east-southeastern sky. The lunar orb’s Full phase occurs on February 16 at 10:56 a.m. CST. During the next few evenings, it continues to brighten.
This evening the moon is in front of the stars of Gemini, near the star Propus, the toes of Castor. The moon’s place compared to Castor’s foot gives the illusion that bright globe is about to be kicked.
Elnath and Zeta Tauri – the horns of Taurus – are to the right of the moon. Castor and Pollux – the Twins – are over 20° to the lower left of the gibbous moon.
Notice the bright stars Capella and Betelgeuse in the same region as the moon.
Tomorrow evening, the moon is closer to Castor and Pollux.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.