March 2, 2022: Venus and Mars are in the southeast before sunrise. The two planets are racing toward a conjunction on March 6 and a close approach on March 16.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:24 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:41 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Venus and Mars are four mornings from their third meeting of a triple conjunction series. This morning, find them in the southeast. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus is nearly 15° above the horizon. Dimmer Mars is 4.9° to the lower right of Earth’s Twin planet.
The planet duo is racing eastward along the ecliptic. Venus is overtaking Mars. Venus is moving faster than Mars eastward each morning.
Venus-Mars During March
Venus began its morning appearance after its inferior conjunction on January 8. It raced into the morning sky, joining Mars.
When Venus or Mercury move from the evening sky to the morning sky, passing between Earth and Sun, the planets are moving westward compared to the sun and the starry background. They are retrograding.
Retrograde motion is an illusion. Typically, the outer planets are described as having this motion as Earth overtakes Mars or one of the other distant worlds. The far-flung planets seem to stop moving eastward and seem to move backwards or retrograde.
For Venus and Mercury, retrograde occurs when they move from the evening sky – east of the sun – to the morning sky – west of the sun. When a planet is visible in the evening sky after sunset, it is east of the sun. Alternately, when a planet rises before sunup and appears in the eastern sky, it is west of our central star.
Mercury and Venus revolve around the sun faster than Earth and along orbital paths closer to the sun. Mercury revolves around the sun in 88 days while a Venusian year is 225 days.
On January 30th, the retrograde direction stopped for Venus, though from a perspective from distant space, Venus’ orbital speed and direction were consistent. As Venus picked up speed toward the east, Mars went past it in a wide conjunction on February 6. Venus’ apparent eastward speed increased toward the next conjunction on March 6. The separation is 4.4°.
A conjunction of two planets or a planet with a star occurs when the two objects have the same longitude on the ecliptic. Under typical circumstances, this is when the two planets appear closest or the planet appears closest to the star.
While the two planets appear close together in the sky, they are far apart in space. On conjunction morning, Venus is over 50 million miles away from us, but Mars is over 125 million miles beyond Venus.
Venus is above the ecliptic at the conjunction, but it is moving toward the plane of the solar system, that is measured between Earth and the sun. After the conjunction, Venus is east of Mars, but the gap continues to close.
By March 10, the gap is reduced to 4.1°. The minimum separation, 3.9° occurs on March 16, but this is not a conjunction. Venus’ ecliptic longitude is east of Mars. Afterwards, the gap opens as Venus moves away from the Red Planet. By March 20, Venus is 4.1° from Mars.
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