2022, February 15: Mars on Final Approach

February 15, 2022: Mars nears a conjunction with Venus, the second of a triple conjunction.  Jupiter is disappearing from the evening sky.  The bright evening moon is near Leo.

2022, February 15: Mars is 6.3° to the lower right of Venus. Mercury is low in the southeast at 45 minutes before sunrise.
Chart Caption – 2022, February 15: Mars is 6.3° to the lower right of Venus. Mercury is low in the southeast at 45 minutes before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:46 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:24 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

Mars is one day before a conjunction with brilliant Venus. The Red Planet is marching eastward in Sagittarius, 6.3° to the lower right of the Morning Star.

Tomorrow morning’s conjunction is the second in a series of three that began July 12, 2021, as Mars was nearing its solar conjunction.

Mars reached that solar conjunction on October 7, 2021 and moved into the morning sky.  Venus completed an evening appearance and moved between Earth and the sun on January 8 – inferior conjunction.  Venus, moving westward compared to the starry background, raced into the morning sky.

Venus stopped retrograding on January 30.  Mars is stepping eastward at nearly a consistent rate, while  Venus is slowly picking up eastward speed.  Mars passes Venus in a wide conjunction tomorrow morning.

Venus picks up speed and repasses Mars for the third conjunction in the sequence on March 6.  The conjunction separation (4.4°) is closer than the meeting tomorrow morning.

Compared to the plane of the solar system, Venus is over 5° above it, while Mars is nearly a degree below the ecliptic.  Venus celestial latitude is quickly decreasing.

After the March 6 conjunction, Venus continues to move toward the ecliptic.  Even though Venus is east of Mars, they are closer (3.9°) on March 16 than at either of the upcoming conjunctions.  The latter event is a “close approach” or “minimum separation.”

This morning at forty-five minutes before sunrise, brilliant Venus is nearly 6° up in the southeast.  The planet outshines all other “stars” and it is over 100 times brighter than Mars to its lower right.

A binocular may assist in finding the starfield behind the two planets. Mars is 2.1° to the lower right of Albaldah – “the city” – and 4.4° to the upper left of Nunki.

These stars, along with Kaus Borealis, belong to Sagittarius.

Along with tomorrow’s conjunction, Mercury reaches its greatest separation from the sun, when we see the largest gap between the sun and Mercury.  This morning the elusive planet is about 5° up in the east-southeast and 15.1° to the lower left of Venus.

Saturn passed its solar conjunction on February 4.  It is slowly climbing into the morning sky, rising 19 minutes before sunup, too deep in bright twilight to look for it.

Evening Sky

2022, February 15: Jupiter is disappearing from the west-southwest sky after sunset.
Chart Caption – 2022, February 15: Jupiter is disappearing from the west-southwest sky after sunset.

Jupiter is reaching the end of its visibility at forty-five minutes after sunset. It is less than 4° up in the west-southwest, setting about 25 minutes later.  It is out of the evening sky at this time interval in a week.  It passes behind the sun on March 5 and moves into the morning sky with Venus, Mercury, and Saturn.

2022, February 15: The bright moon is above Leo during the early evening.
Chart Caption – 2022, February 15: The bright moon is above Leo during the early evening.

Two hours after sunset, the bright, nearly Full moon is about one-third of the way up in the sky above the eastern horizon.  It is to the upper right of Leo, the regal, westward facing Lion.

The constellation’s head is outlined by a half dozen stars that make a backwards question mark, known as the “Sickle of Leo.” 

The lion’s heart is Regulus, “the prince.”  The haunches are outlined by a triangle, that is low in the east-northeast.  Denebola, marks the tail.  This star is not easily visible at this hour.

Leo appears higher in the eastern sky and farther westward each evening.  In spring it’s in the southern sky after sunset. Later during early summer, the constellation is in the western sky.

Tomorrow morning the moon and Leo are in the west-northwest before sunrise.

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