February 12, 2022: Venus, Mercury, and Mars dance in the morning sky. Jupiter slips into evening twilight. The moon is in Gemini.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:50 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
At this latitude, daylight has lengthened to ten hours, 30 minutes. By month’s end, daylight adds nearly another forty-five minutes. Since the beginning of the month, the sun’s noon altitude – height above the southern horizon – increased four degrees. By month’s end, the noon sun adds another five degrees of altitude.
Additionally, the sunrise and sunset points move farther north during February, 12 degrees during the month. On February 28, the sun rises 10° south of the east direction point and sets the same distance south of west.
Brilliant Venus dominates the southeastern sky before sunrise. It is joined by Mercury and Mars.
Mercury is nearing its greatest angular separation from the sun – when we see it farthest from our central star – on February 16. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the speedy planet is nearly 5° up in the east-southeast, and 14.1° to the lower left of the Morning Star. To see Mercury, find a place with a clear horizon toward that direction.
Venus and Mars continue their dance in front of the stars of Sagittarius. Mars is 6.6° to the lower right of Venus this morning. Mars is overtaking Venus after the Morning Star reversed its direction, compared to the distance stars, on January 30. Mars passes Venus in four mornings.
Use a binocular to locate Mars in the starfield. A few mornings ago, it passed Nunki. This morning, the Red Planet is 3.1° to the upper left of the star.
Also take note of Albaldah – “the city” – 3.4° to the upper left of Mars. Tomorrow morning, Mars is above an imaginary line that connects the two stars. The next morning, the planet is below the line. Mars passes Albaldah on February 16.
The bright planets are moving to the morning sky. Jupiter continues its slow slide into evening twilight and toward its solar conjunction on March 5. Forty-five minutes after sunset, find it about 6° up in the west-southwest. It sets about 15 minutes later. Spot it shortly after sunset.
As the sky darkens further, the bright moon is high in the east-southeast. The Gemini Twins are the backdrop for the lunar orb this evening. The moon is 88% illuminated.
Castor and Pollux, the names of the mythological twins, are to the left of the moon. Castor is higher in the sky than Pollux. The moon is nearly 10° to the right of Castor at this hour.
Tomorrow evening the moon is below Pollux, at the end of a line that connects the two stars.
- 2023, October 22: Moon Approaches SaturnOctober 22, 2023: During evening hours, the gibbous moon nears Saturn in the southern sky. Venus and Jupiter are visible during morning twilight.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.