April 4, 2022: The Mars – Saturn conjunction occurs tomorrow morning. Brilliant Venus is nearby. In the evening sky the crescent moon is near the Pleiades star cluster.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:28 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:20 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Tomorrow Mars passes Saturn in a close conjunction. The separation is 0.4°. The planet duo is found in the east-southeast before sunrise.
This morning, brilliant Venus is over 10° above the east-southeast horizon at 45 minutes before sunup. The Morning Star entered the eastern sky before sunrise after its inferior conjunction during early January. It had two conjunctions with Mars as well as a minimum separation with the Red Planet. Venus passed Saturn about a week ago.
Mars and Saturn, dimmer than Venus, are over 6° to the upper right of Venus. Saturn is brighter than Mars and closer to Venus. Mars is 0.5° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder.
This is the last morning these three planets fit within a binocular field of view. Mars and Saturn remain in the same field of view for another week as the Red Planet marches away from Saturn.
Jupiter continues its slow ascent into the morning sky. This morning, it rises 44 minutes before the sun. By twenty minutes before sunrise, it is about 4° above the eastern horizon, 23.4° to the lower left of Venus. Observing Jupiter is a challenge; its brightness makes it visible during brighter twilight.
Venus is quickly stepping toward Jupiter for a close proximate conjunction later this month.
After its superior conjunction, Mercury is quickly entering the evening sky. This evening the planet sets eight minutes after sundown. It is setting six minutes later each evening. In a week it sets over 50 minutes after sunset.
This evening’s spectacle is a pairing of the crescent moon and the Pleiades star cluster. At forty-five minutes after sunset, step outside and look west. A binocular is helpful.
The crescent moon, 14% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the west. The Pleiades star cluster is 4.3° to the upper right of the lunar slice.
Both easily fit into the field of a binocular. How many stars can you count in the cluster?
Notice the moon’s night portion is gently illuminated by earthshine, sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land.
From the moon, Earth is very bright in the sky, because it is displaying a waning gibbous phase. All that light illuminates the lunarscape.
To capture earthshine in a photograph, use a tripod-mounted camera and take exposures ranging up to several seconds.
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