2022, March 10: Morning Planet Trio, Evening Gibbous Moon

March 10, 2022: Brilliant Venus and Mars are in the morning sky.  Saturn begins its morning appearance.  The evening moon is above the horns of Taurus.

2022, March 10: Venus closes in on Mars for a close approach on March 16. Saturn begins to appear in the morning sky.
Chart Caption – 2022, March 10: Venus closes in on Mars for a close approach on March 16. Saturn begins to appear in the morning sky.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:11 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:52 p.m. CST.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

In less than a week, brilliant Venus closes in on Mars. At this close approach Venus is 3.9° from the Red Planet.  On March 6, Venus passed Mars to complete a triple conjunction that began last summer.

Venus is moving toward the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system – and closing a gap to Mars.  No conjunction is in order as Venus is already east of Mars.  Its declining latitude is taking Earth’s Twin planet closer the Red Planet.

In space they are millions of miles apart.  This morning Venus is nearly 56 million miles away and Mars is about 125 million miles beyond the closer planet.  From Earth, they seem to be close in the sky.

At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the Morning Star is 14.0° above the southeast horizon.  Venus is the brightest star in the sky.

Dimmer Mars is 4.1° to the lower right of Venus.

Saturn is slowly climbing into the morning sky.  At this hour it is near the horizon.  Today, Saturn is added back to the charts, but it is challenging to see.  A binocular and exceptional weather conditions are needed to see it.

Jupiter is beginning its climb into the morning.  It passed behind the sun five days ago and it is rising before the sun. Under normal observing conditions, it is very difficult to see, rising a few minutes before the sun.

Mercury is retreating into bright sunlight after its morning appearance.  It rises 34 minutes before the sun, during bright twilight.  The speedy planet reaches its superior conjunction on April 2, beginning its best evening appearance of the year.

Evening Sky

2022, March 10: As night falls, the gibbous moon is above the horns of Taurus.
Chart Caption – 2022, March 10: As night falls, the gibbous moon is above the horns of Taurus.

As night falls, the slightly gibbous moon, 55% illuminated, is high in the southwest.  It is bright enough to illuminate the terrestrial landscape, casting shadows.  Frequently, these articles describe earthshine on the moon from sunlight reflected from our planet.  From the moon, an observer could see moonshine, slightly illuminating Earth’s night portions. Sunlight reflecting from the moon’s mountains, rocks, and dirt illuminates our planet.  Earth’s phase is waning to the New Earth phase. The moonshine effects increases on our world.

From your backyard this evening, the lunar orb is above the horns of Taurus, a precarious place to be in the sky.

The northern horn is Elnath, meaning “the one butting with horns.”  It is cataloged as the second brightest star and also known as Beta Tauri.

The southern horn is Zeta Tauri, originally cataloged as the seventh brightest star in the constellation.  In 2017, the star was officially named Tianguan – meaning “celestial gate” – by the International Astronomical Union.

Both stars are blue-white in color.  Elnath is at least 100 light years away, and Tianguan is four times that distance.

This evening, the gibbous moon is 4.7° to the upper left of Elnath and 4.9° to the upper right of Tianguan. The two stars are too far apart to fit them and the moon in the same binocular field of view.  One star and the moon at a time can fit into a typical binocular field.

Tomorrow evening, the moon poses in front of the stars of Gemini.

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