April 3, 2022: Mars is nearing its close conjunction with Saturn, while brilliant Venus is nearby. In the evening sky, the thin crescent moon displays earthshine.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:30 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:19 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Venus shines brightly from the eastern sky during morning twilight. It rises about 110 minutes before sunrise and less than ten minutes before the beginning of morning twilight.
On April 15, Venus begins to rise before the start of twilight and continues for the remainder of its morning appearance.
Mars is nearing its conjunction with Saturn in two mornings. The planets are over 5° to the upper right of Venus. Saturn is slightly brighter and to the left of Mars. The gap is 1.1°.
All three planets still fit in a binocular’s field of view. This occurs for a few more mornings. As Venus opens a gap on Mars and Saturn, its separation from the planetary pair becomes too large to fit in the same field of view.
This morning, note the kite-shape pattern that Mars and Saturn make with the distant stars Nashira and Deneb Algedi.
Jupiter continues its slow entry into the eastern morning sky after its solar conjunction on March 5. This morning it rises 43 minutes before sunrise. About twenty minutes later, during bright twilight, it is nearly 4° up in the eastern sky, 24.3° to the lower left of Venus.
Venus is quickly closing the gap to Jupiter leading up to a proximate conjunction, 0.5° or closer, at month’s end.
The crescent moon, 8% illuminated, is about 20° up in the west at 45 minutes after sunset. It is 13.5° to the upper left of Hamal – meaning “the full-grown lamb” – the brightest star in Aries.
Menkar, meaning “the nostril,” is the brightest star in Cetus, the Sea Monster. The moon is 11.8° to the upper right of the star.
The evening’s first crescent moon of spring stands nicely in the western sky. At this phase, the moon’s brightness does not overwhelm the dimmer stars of the sky. The lunar night gently glows with earthshine. Sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land dimly illuminates the moon’s night portion.
During the next several nights, photographers can capture earthshine with tripod-mounted cameras and exposures of a few seconds, depending on the cameras’ characteristics.
Tomorrow the lunar crescent is 4.3° to the lower left of the star cluster. The lunar slice and the star cluster easily fit into a binocular’s field.
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