April 12, 2022: Jupiter slowly enters the morning sky, joining Venus, Mars, and Saturn. After sunset, Mercury is in the west-northwest, while the moon is in the middle of Leo.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:28 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter begins to enter the morning sky about the time of mid-twilight. It is quite low, so a view is needed from a hillside or an elevated structure. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the planet is over 2° up, and slightly south of the east direction. Each morning the planet is higher in the sky at this time interval. Brilliant Venus, over 9° above the east-southeast horizon, is 16.5° to the upper right of the Jovian Giant.
Venus is stepping toward Jupiter. It passes Jupiter at month’s end. The planets are about 0.5° apart. These articles define this as a proximate conjunction. Such conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter are rare.
Venus passes Jupiter nearly once every calendar year. Some of the conjunctions are wide, over 4° and others are within 0.5°. The close ones are interesting to view because the two planets are nearly along the same line of sight.
Besides conjunctions with Venus and the moon, close planet conjunctions appear as two jewels on the colors of the sky. Venus passes Jupiter again March 2, 2023, in the evening sky. They are fairly close, but slightly farther apart than the proximate conjunction definition permits.
A very close conjunction occurs May 23, 2024, but the two planets hide in bright sunlight. Venus is only 3° from the sun.
Nine wider conjunctions later, a close meeting of the planets occurs on February 7, 2032. By the time the conjunction is visible in the northern states in the U.S. Eastern Time zone, the planets are already separated by more than 0.5°. Locations with favorable southerly latitudes see it earlier and with the planets closer together. Observers at more southerly latitudes in Central Europe and Africa see the two planets about 0.3° apart.
This morning, Mars marches into Aquarius, 9.4° to the upper right of Venus. Saturn, slightly brighter than Mars, is 4.9° to the upper right of the Red Planet.
Through a binocular, Mars and Saturn can be seen together with the starry background. Watch Mars pass and move away from Iota Aquarii. Saturn’s morning-to-morning change is subtle. Observations every few days show its eastward motion compared to Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Mercury is leaving bright twilight to appear in the western evening sky as night falls. The planet sets 57 minutes after sunset. At 30 minutes after sundown, the planet is about 4° up in the west-northwest. By 45 minutes after sunset, it is only 2° above the horizon. Use a binocular to initially find it. Each evening it is slightly higher, setting about 6 minutes later each evening compared to sundown time.
The bright gibbous moon is high in the southeast, in the middle of Leo the Lion. The westward-facing lion is outlined by a backwards question mark, also known as the “Sickle of Leo,” and a triangle. The sickle is the Lion’s head, while the triangle makes the creature’s haunches and tail, shown by Denebola.
After being chopped by the Sickle last night, the moon seems to be in the Lion’s belly. Tomorrow evening the moon is closer to the Lion’s tail.
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