2022, March 24: Morning Planet Triplet, Scorpion’s Sting

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March 24, 2022: The bright moon is above the Scorpion’s tail this morning, while Morning Star Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast.

Chart Caption – 2022, March 24: The slightly gibbous moon is above the Scorpion’s tail this morning.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:47 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:07 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

As the sky brightens this morning, the moon, nearly 60% illuminated, is low in the southern sky.  The moon is at its Last Quarter Phase about 30 minutes after the new day starts tomorrow.  At that time, it is still below the horizon in North America.

This morning the moon is in front of the dim stars of southern Ophiuchus.  Bright Antares – meaning “the rival of Mars,” is 13.6° to the right of the lunar orb.

Alnasl, meaning “the point of the arrow,” as the translation states is the arrowhead of Sagittarius’ bow and arrow combination.  The star is 8.6° to the lower left of the moon.

If you have a clear southern horizon, look for Shaula and Lesath.  They are at the end of the Scorpion’s tail. The pair looks as if they are cat’s eyes. They are over 10° below the moon.

Both stars are blue-white, indicating high temperatures. Shaula, meaning “the cocked-up part of the scorpion’s tail,” is about 400 light years away.  It shines with a brightness of over 10,000 suns.

Lesath, meaning “the scorpion’s sting” is about 50% farther away than Shula, although it shines with an intensity of about 1,500 suns.

The two stars appear close together in the sky, but they are on the same line of sight and far apart.

Chart Caption – 2022, March 24: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.

The same is occurring in the east-southeast this morning.  Brilliant Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.  Venus and Mars appear to be closing in on Saturn.

Find the Morning Star over 11° above the east-southeast horizon.  Dimmer Mars is 4.5° to the lower right of Venus.  Saturn, nearly 8° above the horizon, is 4.7° to the lower left of Venus and 7.6° to the lower left of Mars.

The three planets are too far apart to fit into the same binocular field.  Either Venus and Mars fit or Venus and Saturn appear in the same field of view.  Beginning tomorrow morning the planetary triplet snugly fits into the same view.

While they look close together in the sky, like Shaula and Lesath in the Scorpion’s tail, the morning planets are far apart in the solar system. Venus is nearly 70 million miles away from Earth and Mars is about three times that distance.  Saturn is nearly a billion miles away, about 15 times farther away than Venus.

Venus steps eastward along the plane of the solar system faster than Mars.  It passes Saturn on March 29, followed by Mars a week later.

On March 28, the three planets fit into a circle 5.3° in diameter and easily into a binocular field of view.  This close bunching of this triple does not repeat until September 6, 2040.  Each morning watch Venus and Mars close the gap to the Ringed Wonder.

Jupiter is slowly climbing into the morning sky after its solar conjunction on March 5th.  It rises over an hour after Saturn and only 26 minutes before the sun.  It continues to rise about two minutes earlier each morning.

Mercury is hiding in bright sunlight, rising only nine minutes before sunup.  On April 2, Mercury passes its superior conjunction with the sun and moves into the evening sky for its best evening appearance of the year.

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