2022, March 21: Morning Planets, Moon, Evening Snake

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March 21, 2022:  Venus and Mars continue to race eastward toward a rare grouping with Saturn.  The moon is in the predawn southwest.  Look for Hydra after sunset.

Chart Caption – 2022, March 21: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:52 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:04 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

The sun is rising north of east and setting north of west.  Through month’s end, the rising location moves about 5° north.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

Brilliant Venus shines from the east-southeast before sunrise.  At forty-five minutes before sunrise, find it 12.0° above the horizon.  Mars is 4.1° to the lower right of the Morning Star.

Both planets are racing toward Saturn that is nearly 7° above the horizon and 7.3° to the lower left of Venus.  Venus and Saturn are in the same binocular field of view starting today, but Mars is too far away from Saturn, 9.6°, for all three to fit in the field at the same time

On March 28, the three planets fit into a circle that is 5.3° across and easily into a binocular field.  The moon is nearby and may fit as well.

The three planets are not this close together again until 2040.

Chart Caption – 2022, March 21: Before sunup, the bright moon is in the southwest, near Zubenelgenubi.

At this hour, the gibbous moon, 88% illuminated, is in the southwest, 4.3° to the lower right of Zubenelgenubi, meaning “the southern claw” of the Scorpion.

Jupiter and Mercury are in transition.  After March fifth’s conjunction with the sun, Jupiter is slowly climbing into the morning sky.  This morning it rises 21 minutes before the sun.

Mercury is moving toward its superior conjunction with the sun.  This occurs when the speedy planet is on the far side of its orbit from Earth and behind the central star.  After this April 2nd conjunction, Mercury appears in the evening sky for its best appearance of the year after sundown.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, March 21: The head and heart of Hydra are found in the south after sunset.

With the bright stars of winter beginning the evening farther westward, a smattering of bright stars is in the eastern half of the sky.  One famous mythical character is memorialized in the stars – Hydra. 

Hercules killed the multiheaded snake as one of his tasks to gain freedom from King Eurystheus.

The constellation Hydra’s curving nature resembles a snake.  The pattern’s head is between Regulus and Procyon.  It curves across the sky, through Alphard, and then farther east and below the horizon.  The snake takes nearly seven hours to rise completely and at the hour shown on the accompanying chart, the tail does not rise for about another four hours.

The heart is marked by Alphard – meaning “the solitary one.”  It is slightly brighter than the stars of the Big Dipper and seems to stand alone in a starfield of dimmer stars. 

Alphard is about 200 light years away.  It shines with a brightness of 700 suns.  It is distinctly red-orange in color and known as a bright giant.

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