2022, April 2: Mercury at Superior Conjunction, Morning Planets

April 2, 2022:  Mercury is at its superior conjunction.  The sun is between Mercury and our world.  Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.

2022, April 2: Mercury is at superior conjunction, on its far arc of its solar orbit.
Chart Caption – 2022, April 2: Mercury is at superior conjunction, on its far arc of its solar orbit.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:32 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:17 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Mercury is at superior conjunction today.  The sun is between the speedy planet and our home world.  The planet is lost in the sun’s visual intensity.

Mercury revolves around the sun every eighty-eight days.  Because it moves quickly, it catches up to Earth every 116 days.

2022, January 3: Venus, Mercury, and the crescent moon.
Photo Caption – 2022, January 3: Venus, Mercury, and the crescent moon.

In the sky, Mercury quickly swings from the eastern morning sky to the western evening sky and back to the morning again.  This year, Mercury has four evening appearances and three morning apparitions.

The planet is always visible during twilight and in a few cases, it rises before the beginning of morning twilight or sets at the end of evening twilight.  From the mid-northern latitudes, it is never visible at midnight.

2021, May 13: Brilliant Venus, Mercury, and the crescent moon in the evening sky.
Photo Caption – 2021, May 13: Brilliant Venus, Mercury, and the crescent moon in the evening sky.

The best appearances occur when the plane of the solar system makes its sharpest angles with the local horizon.  In the northern hemisphere, Mercury is easy to find during autumn mornings and spring evenings.

2021, May 29: Brilliant Venus shines from the west-northwest after sunset. Mercury, with some magnification, is visible to the lower right of Venus.
Photo Caption – 2021, May 29: Brilliant Venus shines from the west-northwest after sunset. Mercury, with some magnification, is visible to the lower right of Venus.

After its superior conjunction, Mercury sets after sundown.  It makes its best evening appearance of the year among the starfields of Taurus, passing the Pleiades star cluster on April 29, and the crescent moon joins Mercury on May 2,two photographic opportunities for those so inclined to capture that view.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

2022, April 2: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.
Chart Caption – 2022, April 2: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.

Venus continues as the Morning Star in the eastern sky before sunrise.  Step outside 45 minutes before sunup, Venus is over 10° above the east-southeast horizon.

Two planets are nearby.  Saturn is 4.7° to the right of Venus, while Mars is 1.7° to the right of the Ringed Wonder.

In three mornings, Mars passes 0.4° below Saturn for a close conjunction.

2022, April 2: Through a binocular Venus, Mars, and Saturn nearly span the field of view.
Chart Caption – 2022, April 2: Through a binocular Venus, Mars, and Saturn nearly span the field of view.

The three planets continue to fit into the same binocular field for a few more mornings. Venus is stepping away from Mars and Saturn.

Jupiter is emerging from bright sunlight into the morning sky.  Twenty minutes before sunrise, it is about 4° above the eastern horizon – 8° south of the east cardinal point.  A clear horizon and a binocular are needed to spot it. 

Jupiter rises 41 minutes before sunrise.  Venus is closing in on the Jovian Giant for a close Proximate Conjunction on April 30.

This morning the Venus – Jupiter gap is 22.6°.  Venus moves over 1° eastward each morning.

Watch the ever-changing pattern of planets in the morning sky.

Evening Sky

2022, April 2: The thin crescent moon is low in the western sky after sunset.
Chart Caption – 2022, April 2: The thin crescent moon is low in the western sky after sunset.

The thin crescent moon, 3% illuminated, returns to the sky this evening.  Look carefully for it 10° up in the western sky at forty-five minutes after sunset.

The star Hamal is 12.7° to the upper right of the lunar crescent, while Menkar is 15.3° to the upper left of the moon.

During the next few evenings watch the phase grow as the moon appears higher in the sky.  In two evenings, the moon and Pleiades appear together, close enough for the crescent and the cluster to fit into a binocular field of view.

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