March 22, 2022: Morning Star Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise. A close bunching of the morning planets is approaching on March 28. The moon is in the southern sky before sunrise.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:51 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:05 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.
Venus, the bright Morning Star, is about 12° up in the east-southeast. This morning it rises about two hours before sunrise and nearly 30 minutes before the beginning of morning twilight. It began to appear in the morning sky after its inferior conjunction on January 8. It stopped retrograding on January 30, that was followed by two conjunctions with Mars, February 16 and March 6.
Mars slowly entered the sky after its solar conjunction on October 7, 2021. It marched eastward through Ophiuchus and Sagittarius. This morning it is in front of the stars of Capricornus, along with the other two planets.
Saturn passed its solar conjunction on February 4, when it passed behind the sun. It is slowly becoming visible. This morning it is over 7° above the horizon and 6.4° to the lower left of Venus.
Venus moves the fastest of this planetary triplet. Sticking close to the sun, it takes about a year to pass through the entire starfield behind the ecliptic. Mars takes about two years to complete the same trek, but Saturn’s travel among all the stars takes nearly 30 years.
Saturn plods eastward very slowly. Venus is quickly stepping toward Saturn at a rate nearly twice as fast as Mars. It looks like a footrace, but Venus reaches Saturn first.
On March 28, the three planets are easily visible in a binocular field of view. They fit into an imaginary circle, 5.3° in diameter. The crescent moon is nearby and may fit into a binocular field.
This bunch of planets is not this close again until September 6, 2040. During this next week, watch this formation take shape.
This morning, look for the moon, 80% illuminated, about 25° up in the south-southwest, 9.9° to the left of Zubenelgenubi and 15.2° to the upper right of Antares.
Jupiter and Mercury are in transition. After its conjunction with the sun, Jupiter is beginning its slow climb into morning view. This morning the planet is west of the sun, but it is only rising 23 minutes before sunrise.
Mercury is enroute to its superior conjunction, on the far curve of its orbit behind the sun. This morning it is still on the morning side (west) of the sun, rising only 13 minutes before the sun.
With no bright planets in the evening sky, here are a few books for your reading and reference.
- Binocular Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users, Gary Seronik. A seasonal overview of sights to see through a binocular.
- The Friendly Stars: How to Locate and Identify Them, Martha Evans Martin & Donald Howard Menzel. A poetic and sky watcher’s overview of the bright stars and their characteristics. A Dover Book reprint still available through online book sellers.
- Touring the University through Binoculars, Phillip Harrington. This book is a guide to sky watching, how the sky works, and what to see.
Happy sky watching!
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 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.