March 12, 2022: Morning planets, Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the southeast before sunrise. The bright, gibbous moon is high in the southeast, near the star Pollux.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:08 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:54 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Daylight is approaching twelve hours. Today, it is 11 hours, 48 minutes long. Daylight Saving Time begins tomorrow. The clocks advance one hour at 2 a.m. CST to become 3 a.m.CDT.
Brilliant Venus steps eastward in western Capricornus. The stars in this region of the ecliptic are not very bright. Use a binocular to spot Dabih, 2.1° to the upper right of the Morning Star. Algedi is 4.2° above Venus.
Each morning note Venus’ location compared to this stellar pair.
Mars is marching eastward through western Capricornus as well. The Red Planet is about 10° above the horizon and 4.0° to the lower right of Venus.
In four mornings, Venus and Mars are 3.9° apart. This is not a conjunction, because Venus is already east of Mars and moving faster. The Morning Star is moving closer to the ecliptic, seemingly like it is about to cut off the Red Planet, but Venus steps away.
Saturn is making its first appearance in the east-southeast at 45 minutes before sunup. It is over 4° above the horizon and nearly 15° to the lower left of Venus. Look for the planet with a binocular. Some favorable weather conditions are needed when viewing near the horizon.
Jupiter follows Saturn across the horizon 66 minutes after Saturn rises. The Jovian Giant is slightly west of the sun, but rises in bright twilight, and it is not visible by conventional means. It rises earlier each day. We’ll start looking for it in a few weeks.
Speedy Mercury is moving toward a superior conjunction with the sun on April 2, then zipping into the evening sky for its best evening appearance of the year.
Three other interesting planet events occurs in the near future:
- March 28: Venus, Saturn, and Mars fit into a circle that is 5.3° in diameter and easily into a binocular field of view. The crescent moon is nearby, but does not fit into the circle. The grouping of these three planets at this proximity is a rare event and it does not occur again until September 6, 2040.
- March 29: Brilliant Venus passes 2.1° to the upper left of Saturn.
- April 5:Mars passes 0.4° to the lower left of Saturn.
As the sky darkens, the bright gibbous moon – 74% illuminated – is over two-thirds of the way up in the sky at 45 minutes after sunset. At this hour, it is 3.8° to the right of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins.
To see the star, shield your eyes from the moon as you would hold your hand to block the sun. As the evening progresses, notice the brightness of the ground from the moonlight. For the next several evenings the bright moon illuminates terrestrial features and casts their shadows.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.