March 27, 2022: Tomorrow, Venus, Mars, and Saturn are bunched together in a rare grouping of three planets. The crescent moon is in the same vicinity.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:42 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:11 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Today, daylight increases to nearly twelve hours, 30 minutes at this latitude. The sun rises about 5° north of east and sets the same distance north of west. The sun’s noon altitude is over 50°. Daylight’s length increases two to three minutes each day.
Tomorrow, three morning planets – Venus, Mars, and Saturn – cluster in a rare bunching of three planets that fit in a circle, 5.3° across.
This morning step outside about forty-five minutes before sunrise. The crescent moon, 26% illuminated, is over 10° up in the southeast. Brilliant Venus, over 11° above the east-southeast horizon, is nearly 16° to the upper left of the lunar slice.
Dimmer Mars is 5.1° to the right of Venus. Saturn, nearly 9° above the horizon, is 2.6° to the lower left of the brilliant Morning Star and 5.7° to the lower left of Mars.
The planet triplet easily fits into a binocular’s field of view.
Hesitation is used to call this a “planet trio.” This label was defined by astronomer Jean Meeus for a group of three planets that fit within a circle less than 5° in diameter. In deference to Meeus’ enormous contribution to the study of planetary events, previous articles have avoided using this term.
The next planet trio occurs with Mercury, Mars, and Saturn on April 20, 2026, before sunrise, when the three planets are in a line that extends 1.7° from Mars to Mercury. Typically, Mercury is the third planet in these trios that involve any two of the four bright planets.
Venus, Mars, and Saturn are one of these trios when they are close again on September 6, 2040, when the three planets fit within a circle 3.9° across.
Tomorrow’s bunching of the three planets is certainly a rare event. The moon is nearby and may fit within the field of view of some binoculars with the designation “wide field.”
On March 29, Venus passes Saturn, followed by Mars passing the Ringed Wonder on April 5.
Jupiter is slowly climbing into the morning sky. It rises during bright twilight 31 minutes before sunup.
Venus quickly moves toward Jupiter and a Proximate Conjunction – within 0.5° – on April 30, after Jupiter emerges from bright sunlight.
Mercury is racing toward its superior conjunction and its best evening appearance of the year.
Watch the changing orientation of the three planets in the east-southeast before sunrise.
- 2023, October 24: Venus, Jupiter, Bookend Bright OrionOctober 24, 2023: Morning planets Venus and Jupiter bookend many bright stars, including Orion. The moon is near Saturn during the evening.
- 2023, October 23: Venus at Greatest ElongationOctober 23, 2023: Venus moves to its farthest angular distance from the sun today, known as greatest elongation. During morning twilight, the Morning Star passes Leo’s Chertan.
- 2023, October 22: Moon Approaches SaturnOctober 22, 2023: During evening hours, the gibbous moon nears Saturn in the southern sky. Venus and Jupiter are visible during morning twilight.
- 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.