March 18, 2022: Venus and Mars race eastward toward Saturn. Later in the evening, the bright moon is above Spica.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:57 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:01 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
With the equinox two days away, daylight is slightly longer than nighttime.
Brilliant Venus is “that bright star” in the southeast before sunrise. At forty-five minutes before sunup, it is nearly 13° above the horizon. Through the end of the month, the Morning Star loses 13 minutes of rising time. On April 14, Venus rises at the beginning of morning twilight and rises before it until October 22, when the planet reaches its superior conjunction, on the far side of the sun, beginning an evening appearance.
This morning, dimmer Mars is 3.9° to the lower right of Venus.
At this hour, Saturn is nearly 6° above the east-southeast horizon. It is becoming easier to see each morning.
Venus and Mars are racing toward the slower-moving Saturn, although Venus moves eastward faster than Mars. Venus nears the Ringed Wonder on March 28 with a conjunction the next morning.
On March 28, Venus, Saturn, and Mars are within a circle 5.3° in diameter. The moon is nearby. The three planets easily fit into a binocular field of view. The moon can be included if the binocular model is a “wide field” instrument.
This is a rare bunching of these three planets that does not occur again until September 6, 2040. On other occasions, March 21, 2024, and June 3, 2034, the three planets are within 14° of each other and on the same side of the sun so they are visible in the sky at the same time.
Jupiter is slowly climbing into the morning sky, after is solar conjunction on March 5. This morning it rises 15 minutes before sunrise, and it is lost in the bright light of the sun near the horizon.
Mercury is nearing a conjunction with Jupiter, but this event is lost in sunlight. This morning Mercury rises four minutes before the Jovian Giant.
While planet spotting this morning, the bright moon is about 13° above the west horizon.
The bright moon rises nearly 40 minutes after sunset. As the evening progresses, Spica rises over two hours after sundown and an hour later it is nearly 10° above the east-southeast horizon. This evening the moon is over 15° above the star.
Tomorrow evening the gibbous moon is near Spica.
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