March 17, 2022: Venus and Mars move closer to Saturn in the southeastern sky before sunup. The bright Full moon illuminates the night sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:59 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:00 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
At this latitude, daylight is one minute longer than half a day. The equinox is three days away when the sun’s coordinates indicate that sunlight shines toward the northern hemisphere.
Brilliant Venus shines from the southeastern sky before sunrise. It is the brightest “star” in the sky. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus is nearly 13° above the horizon. Mars is 3.9° to the lower right of the Morning Star.
Both planets are moving eastward toward Saturn. This morning, the Ringed Wonder is over 5° above the east-southeast horizon and 10.8° to the lower left of Venus.
On March 28, Venus, Mars and Saturn bunch together with the moon nearby. The three planets fit into a circle that is 5.3° across and easily into a binocular field of view. If the binocular is considered “wide field,” the moon may fit as well.
A close gathering of these three planets is a rare event. The next one occurs on September 6, 2040.
During the next several mornings, watch Venus and Mars race eastward toward Saturn.
This morning the moon is less than 10° up in the west, over 10° below Denebola, meaning “the tail of the lion.”
Jupiter is slowly moving into the morning sky. It is west of the sun, meaning it rises before sunup. It reaches the horizon nearly 15 minutes before the sun. Seeing it with conventional means is a challenge because of its proximity to the sun.
Mercury is nearing its superior conjunction with the sun on April 2. Afterward it moves east of the central star and into the western evening sky for the year’s best evening appearance. This morning it is still west of the sun, rising about 20 minutes before the sun.
After sundown, the bright, nearly Full moon is over 10° above the east horizon. The lunar orb is 8.6° to the lower right of Denebola and 4.3° to the upper left of Zavijava, meaning “the corner of the barking dog.”
This evening, the moon is in front of the backdrop of Virgo.
With this bright moon, the stellar background is a challenge to see. Casting bright light across the sky and the landscape, the moon’s light tends to blot out the dimmer stars. Standing in the shadow of a building or blocking out the moon with your hand makes it easier to see the stars.
After midnight, at 2:18 a.m. CDT, the moon reaches its Full moon phase. This month’s bright moon is known as the Worm Moon.
Tomorrow morning find the bright moon in the western sky when spotting the morning planets.
Tomorrow evening the moon is farther eastward in Virgo and approaching Spica. It is visible later in the evening, when it rises after sunset.
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