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.
February 24, 2023: The evening moon, showing earthshine, appears above converging planets, Venus and Jupiter. Mars marches eastward in Taurus, high in the south.Keep reading
February 23, 2023: After sundown, three bright planets and the crescent moon are easily visible. The bright winter stars of the Orion region are in the southern sky after sundown.Keep reading
January 30-February 3, 2023: The watch for Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) shifts to the morning sky. With a bright evening moon, the dim comet is easier to find before sunrise.Keep reading