March 23, 2022: The bright moon is near Antares, while Venus, Mars, and Saturn dance in the morning sky. The stars of the Orion region are in the western sky during the evening.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:49 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:06 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Step outside during morning twilight. The bright gibbous moon, about 70% illuminated, is over 20° up in the south. It is 2.3° to the upper right of Antares, meaning “the rival of Mars.”
On celestial artwork, Antares dots the Scorpion’s heart. Two stars, one to the upper right and the other to the lower left of Antares, could represent cardiac arteries.
About every two years, Mars and Antares appear close together. Most recently this occurred during December 2021. Two daytime conjunctions of the pair occur December 8, 2023, and November 18, 2025.
On October 29, 2027, Mars passes 3.7° to the upper right of Antares, although the star is less than 4° above the southwest horizon during the middle of twilight.
On October 7, 2029, Mars passes 3.3° to the upper right of the star. At forty-five minutes after sunset, Antares is nearly 11° up in the southwest.
For the next decade, the biennial conjunction is visible during nighttime hours. Then it occurs again during daytime for several conjunction cycles.
At the hour that the gibbous moon and Antares are in the southern sky, brilliant Venus, Mars, and Saturn are dancing in the east-southeast.
Venus is the brightest “star” in the sky. It is quickly stepping eastward toward Saturn. Find Venus 12.0° above the east-southeast horizon. The gap to Saturn is 5.6°. The Ringed Wonder is nearly 8° above the horizon, to the lower left of Venus.
Mars continues its eastward march, although slower than Venus. The Red Planet is 4.4° to the lower right of Venus and 8.3° to the upper right of Saturn. The trio does not quite fit into a binocular’s field of view.
Each morning the three planets are in slightly different spots compared to the previous morning.
Venus passes Saturn on March 29, followed by Mars a week later.
These conjunctions are frequent, but a rare event occurs on March 28. The three planets fit within a circle 5.3° in diameter and easily within a binocular field of view. On this morning, the crescent moon is nearby and may fit within a “wide field of view” binocular.
The morning dance trio appears this close together again on September 6, 2040.
Don’t miss the morning grouping of these planets in less than a week!
Step outside about two hours after sunset. The bright stars of the Orion region of the sky are shifting to the southwest. Bright Sirius is low in the west-southwest. Betelgeuse and Rigel, Orion’s brightest stars, are in the southwest. Aldebaran, a reddish star in Taurus, is over a third of the way up in the sky above the western horizon. Procyon, Gemini Twins Castor and Pollux, and Capella are higher in the western sky.
Each evening they appear lower in the sky and begin to disappear into western twilight during late spring.
- 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.