February 23, 2022: Brilliant Morning Star Venus and Mars are in the south before sunup, while the moon is in the south. The bright stars of winter make a letter in the night sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:35 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:34 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Note from the sunrise and sunset times that daylight is approaching eleven hours at the mid-northern latitudes. Darkness, the interval from the end of evening twilight to the beginning of the next morning’s twilight, is nearly ten hours. These two intervals were equal less than two weeks ago. The sun is rapidly moving northward and daylight quickly lengthens.
Brilliant Venus is “that bright star” in the southeast before sunrise. At forty-five minutes before sunup, Earth’s Twin is over 15° above the horizon.
Dimmer Mars is 5.6° to the lower right of the brilliant planet.
Venus and Mars are in an eastward footrace along the ecliptic. During the next five mornings, Venus moves 3.8° eastward, slightly faster than Mars’ 3.7° distance. This morning Mars is 0.6° farther eastward than Venus. By the end of the interval the difference in ecliptic longitude is 0.5°.
Mars passed Venus a week ago. Venus continues to pick up eastward speed after its retrograde ended January 30. Venus passes Mars in the third conjunction in a triple conjunction series on March 6.
At this hour the moon, 55% illuminated and west of brilliant Venus, is about one-third of the way up in the south. The lunar orb is 4.8° to the lower right of Graffias – “the crab” – and 11.4° to the upper right of Antares – “the rival of Mars.”
Three planets are near the sun. Saturn passed behind the sun on February 4. It is slowly climbing into the morning sky. This morning it rises 37 minutes before sunrise. It is too dim to be seen easily. Mercury is retreating back into bright sunlight, moving toward its April 5th superior conjunction. This morning it rises 63 minutes before sunrise. During morning twilight, it is only a few degrees above the east-southeast horizon. Jupiter is transitioning from the evening sky to the morning. This evening it sets 34 minutes after sunset. It reaches its conjunction with the sun on March 5.
The bright winter stars are in the southern sky during the early evening hours. Many writers describe various informal shapes from the night’s brightest stars.
One shape is the Winter Triangle, comprised of Sirius, Procyon, and Betelgeuse.
Another shape is the Winter W. The shape includes Procyon, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, and Aldebaran. It’s not a perfect shape, but it seems that the stars are declaring their place during the mid-northern latitudes’ cold season.
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- 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.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.