2022, April 8: Solar Calendar, Morning Planets, Evening Moon

April 8, 2022: Begin counting days to the solstice.  Morning planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast.  The evening moon is near Castor and Pollux.

2021, July 2: Sunrise!
Photo Caption – 2021, July 2: Sunrise!

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:22 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:24 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

The rising and setting sun is moving fast enough along the horizon to start an exercise to determine the date of the summer solstice.  Yes, we have computer programs and calendars that tell us the date and time of the summer solstice (June 21, 4:14 a.m. CDT from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program).  Ok. Easy. Done.  For our ancestral farmers at the mid-northern latitudes, it was not that simple.

The growing season was relatively short, between the last spring frost and the first one in the fall, especially for tender plants without the benefit of modern hybridization.  Even though the weather varies in the spring, knowing those dates were life-essential.

Plant a stick or vertical post during the next few weeks and note the rising spot of the sun.  Count the days until the sunrise point returns to the same point on the horizon as noted by the vertical marker.  Half that time was the date of the solstice.

Next year, when the sun reaches that point on the horizon, count the days to the solstice. The count is accurate within a day or two.

By early-to mid-May, the sun’s motion along the horizon is minimal and beginning the count too late during the spring season does not yield favorable results.

Kern Effigy #1. This may have been a calendar marker for ancestral farmers in Southwest Ohio.
Photo Caption – Kern Effigy #1. This may have been a calendar marker for ancestral farmers in Southwest Ohio.

In southwest Ohio, a snake effigy faces the eastern horizon.  A post near the snake’s head may have cast a shadow along the body and tail to mark spring events and the summer solstice, the day when the sun stops moving northward along the horizon and slowly rises at more southerly azimuths.  This may have been used as an agricultural calendar as well as one for cultural activities.

A winter solstice snake is nearby.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

2022, April 8: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.
Chart Caption – 2022, April 8: Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the east-southeast before sunrise.

Brilliant Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the southeast before day break.  Venus is “that bright star” in the eastern sky during morning twilight.  The planet rises 104 minutes before sunrise.  In a week, the planet rises before the beginning of morning twilight.  This occurs for the remainder of the planet’s appearance in the morning sky.

Through a spotting scope or small telescope, Venus shows a morning gibbous, nearly 60% illuminated.  The planet is largely featureless because it is wrapped in a thick layer of clouds.

Mars is 8.2° to the upper right of Venus.  It passed Saturn a few mornings ago.  The Ringed Wonder is 2.3° to the upper right of the Red Planet.

2022, April 8: Mars and Saturn, in a binocular view, are with the stars of Capricornus.
Chart Caption – 2022, April 8: Mars and Saturn, in a binocular view, are with the stars of Capricornus.

Mars and Saturn fit in the same binocular field with two stars in Capricornus – Deneb Algedi and Nashira.

Venus is too far to the east of Mars to fit into the same field of view with the Red Planet.

Through a telescope, Mars is somewhat featureless.  It appears as a rusty star.  The planet is too small and too far away this morning to see Martian polar caps or darker regions.

In a telescopic eyepiece, Saturn is relatively small, but its yellow-orange globe is visible along with its rings and possibly a brighter moon or two.

Jupiter is slowly entering the morning sky, rising 52 minutes before the sun. By 30 minutes it is nearly 4° above the eastern horizon, 20.0° to the lower left of the Morning Star. 

Venus passes Jupiter is a close proximate conjunction at month’s end.

Evening Sky

The moon is near Castor and Pollux as night falls.
2022, April 8: The moon is near Castor and Pollux as night falls.

Speedy Mercury is scrambling into the western evening sky for its best appearance of the year in northern hemisphere.  This evening it sets 32 minutes after sundown.

Near month’s end it is near the Pleiades star cluster.  The crescent moon appears near Mercury during early May.

This evening the nearly half-full moon is about 70° up in the west-southeast, in front of the stars of Gemini. The moon is at its First Quarter phase at 1:38 a.m. CDT tomorrow.

This evening, the lunar orb is 7.4° to the lower left of Castor and 7.6° to the lower right of Pollux.

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