March 11, 2022: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the southeastern sky before sunrise. After nightfall, the moon uses the stars of Gemini as its starry backdrop.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:09 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:53 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Venus and Mars are dancing in the morning sky. Venus is “that bright star” in the southeast before sunrise. At forty-five minutes before sunrise. Venus is nearly 14° above the southeast horizon.
Dimmer Mars is 4.1° to the lower right of the brilliant planet. Use a binocular to initially locate the Red Planet. Both planets easily fit into the same binocular field of view.
These morning planets are in front of the stars of Capricornus. Through the binocular spot the star Dabih, meaning “the lucky star of the sacrifice,” is 1.6° above Venus. The star Algedi, meaning “the kid,” is 3.9° above Venus. The trio fits into the same binocular field of view. Watch Venus move away from Dabih during the next few mornings.
The gap between Venus and Mars continues to close. Venus is angling toward to the ecliptic and the Red Planet each morning until March 16. At this close approach Venus is 3.9° from the Red Planet. This event is not a conjunction because Venus already passed Mars six mornings ago. It seems as though Venus is cutting in front of Mars. Venus, though, leaves Mars in the celestial dust as it steps away from the Red Planet.
Saturn is entering the morning sky, although it is a challenge to see without a natural horizon and clear weather. The Ringed Wonder is over 3° above the east-southeast horizon, nearly 16° to the lower left of Venus.
Jupiter follows Saturn into the sky 65 minutes after the Ringed Wonder rises, but this is near sunrise. The Jovian Giant is slowly climbing into the morning sky.
Mercury rises 31 minutes before the sun. The speedy planet races toward its superior conjunction on April 2, then into the evening sky for its best appearance of the year.
As night falls, the bright gibbous moon is high in the south-southeast with constellation Gemini as its backdrop. The lunar orb is 65% illuminated and very bright.
Gemini somewhat resembles its namesake, the mythical twins Castor and Pollux. The star pattern is two side-by-side human stick figures, perhaps with their arms around the other’s shoulders.
The moon is 2.0° to the upper right of the star Mebsuta, meaning “the outstretched paw of the lion.” Because of the moon’s brightness, shield your eyes as you would to block the sun to see the star. Alternately, use a binocular to get the star and the moon in the same field of view, then move the binocular so that only the star is visible without the moon’s glare.
Tomorrow evening the moon is near Pollux.
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