March 25, 2022: A rare planet pack of Venus, Mars, and Saturn is taking shape in the morning sky. The moon appears in the Teapot of Sagittarius.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:45 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:09 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Three bright planets shine from the east-southeast before sunrise. Brilliant Morning Star Venus, Mars, and Saturn are bunching together.
Several writers may have a variety of names for this packing of the planets. They may call it a triple conjunction. This is misnamed. A triple conjunction occurs when two planets pass three times in a particular sequence.
Earlier this month, Venus and Mars ended a triple conjunction series that began during 2021.
Others may name it a planet trio. It is a bunch of three planets. A planet trio is so named when the three planets are within 5.0°. When they are closest in three mornings, Venus, Mars, and Saturn are 5.3° apart, so they do not qualify for that designation.
This morning at forty-five minutes before sunrise, brilliant Venus is 11° up in the east-southeast. Dimmer Mars is 4.7° to the lower right of Venus. Saturn, nearly 8° above the horizon, is 3.9° to the lower left of Venus and 7.0° to the lower left of Mars.
Venus passes Saturn on March 29, the morning after the closest bunching of this planet group. Mars follows Venus past Saturn a week later.
This morning, the three planets tightly fit into a binocular field. They appear in the same field until April 4.
Saturn passed its solar conjunction on February 4 and began a slow climb into the morning sky. It becoming easier to see each morning.
The Ringed Wonder moves slowly eastward along the plane of the solar system. The planet makes one circle around the zodiac in nearly 30 years. Venus and Mars move quickly and they overtake the slower planet and seemingly leave it in their planetary dust.
Jupiter is slowly climbing into the morning sky after its solar conjunction on March 5. It rises over an hour after Saturn. After this morning it rises before the beginning of civil twilight, when the sun is 6° below the horizon, making the sky fairly bright. It rises about two minutes earlier each morning.
Mercury is nearing its superior conjunction with the sun on April 2. It moves east of the sun and begins to set after sundown. Later in April it makes its best evening appearance of the year in the bright starfields of Taurus and near the Pleiades.
This morning the moon, 47% illuminated, is about 20° up in the south-southeast, over 40° to the upper right of brilliant Venus. It passed its Last Quarter phase shortly after midnight.
The lunar orb appears in front of the stars of Sagittarius. The celestial centaur more resembles a Teapot, rather than a creature that is part human and part horse.
With this, the moon appears to be steeping in the pot this morning.
The formal names of the stars indicate parts of the Archer’s bow and arrow. Alnasl is the point of the arrow. The bow’s parts begin with Kaus. Borealis (northern), Media (middle) and Australis (southern) designate the bow’s regions. Ascella marks his “armpit.”
Nunki is named for “the yoke of the sea.”
During the next three mornings, the moon’s phase continues to shrink with the moon moving farther eastward toward the morning planet pack. On the closest morning, the moon is nearby and may fit into the same field of view with the three planets, depending on the binocular’s properties.
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