March 16, 2022: Venus closes to 3.9° of Mars, a minimum separation. This planet duo moves toward Saturn. The bright moon is near the Lion’s haunches as night falls.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:01 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:59 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Daylight continues to lengthen. Today, daytime is 11 hours, 58 minutes, while it adds three minutes tomorrow. The equinox occurs in four days.
This is not a conjunction. It is a minimum separation. Venus passed Mars for a third conjunction in a triple conjunction series ten mornings ago. Venus is east of Mars along the plane of the solar system – the ecliptic – but Earth’s Twin planet is moving closer to the plane. Even though it is farther eastward, the separation between the two planets has continued to close since the third conjunction.
Venus and Mars are closer in the sky than they were at the February 16th conjunction (6.2°) and the March 6th meeting (4.4°). A conjunction occurs when two planets share the same ecliptic longitude. Today’s minimum separation is not a conjunction.
At forty-five minutes before sunrise, locate brilliant Venus, over 13° above the southeast horizon. Dimmer Mars is to the lower right of the Morning Star.
At this hour, Saturn, about 5° above the horizon, is 11.3° to the lower left of Venus. It rises 76 minutes before sunrise.
Venus and Mars are moving eastward toward Saturn. On March 28, the day before the Venus – Saturn conjunction, Venus, Mars, and Saturn fit in a 5.3° circle, with the moon nearby. The three planets are not this close together again until September 6, 2040. This is a rare event. Watch Venus and Mars approach the slower-moving Saturn during the next several days.
Jupiter is west of the sun, rising over an hour after Saturn, but during bright twilight. The Jovian Giant is slowly climbing into the morning sky
Mercury is moving toward a superior conjunction with the sun on April 2 and its best evening appearance of the year.
This morning, at this hour, the bright moon is near the horizon in the west-northwest.
After sundown, the bright moon, 98% illuminated, is nearly 25° up in the east. It is near the haunches of Leo.
The constellation is a regal, westward-facing lion, that is climbing into the eastern sky during late winter and early spring. Leo’s head is outlined by the stars known as the “Sickle of Leo,” a half dozen stars in the outline of a backwards question mark.
Regulus, meaning “the prince,” is at the bottom of the sickle’s handle.
The haunches are dotted by Chertan, “the two small ribs,” Zosma, “the loin cloth,” and Denebola, “the lion’s tail.” These stars range in distance from about 40-150 light years and the are from 30-150 times brighter than the sun.
Tomorrow morning look for the bright moon when spotting the bright morning planets. In the evening, the lunar orb moves into Virgo, over 8° to the lower right of Denebola.
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