April 15, 2022: The moon is visible in the morning and during the evening hours. Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are morning planets, while Mercury is visible after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:10 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:32 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning the bright gibbous moon in the western sky might initially attract attention. During the middle of morning twilight, it is about 5° up in the western sky, over 17° to the lower right of Spica. Arcturus is higher in the west.
Four bright planets dance to the celestial music in the eastern sky. They are in a diagonal line. Brilliant, rising before the beginning of morning twilight, Venus is easiest to see about 9° above the east-southeast horizon. Bright Jupiter is nearly 4° above the east horizon. It is low, but its brightness makes it relatively easy to see when the horizon is free from obstructions and clouds.
Venus is closing a gap to Jupiter. The brilliant planet steps eastward along the plane of the solar system over 1° each morning. This morning the gap is 13.9°. At month’s end Venus passes Jupiter for a proximate conjunction, one that has a separation that is 0.5° or closer.
For the duration of its morning appearance, Venus rises before the beginning of morning twilight.
Mars and Saturn are to the upper right of Venus. The gap to Mars is 10.5° and another 7.0° to Saturn.
This is the last morning to see Mars and Saturn in the same binocular field of view. Mars is near Iota Aquarii, while Saturn is near Deneb Algedi.
Mercury continues its quick climb into the evening sky. Setting five minutes later each evening compared to the sunset time, the planet is nearly 5° up in the west-northwest at 45 minutes after sunset.
Begin looking for Mercury about 30 minutes after sunset, when it is over 7° above the horizon. During brighter twilight, a binocular is needed to see it. As the sky darkens and the planet is easier to see, it moves toward the horizon from Earth’s rotation. When can you see it without a binocular? Locating it is a balance between finding it during brighter twilight or making an observation during later twilight when Mercury is closer to the horizon where terrestrial obstacles and clouds can hamper the view.
The window to locate it is narrow, but widening each evening. The planet is hurtling nearly 6° eastward each evening. This evening, Mercury sets 73 minutes after sunset.
Mercury is on course for a splendid grouping with the Pleiades star cluster at month’s end. This evening the stellar bunch is 20.6° to the upper left of the speedy planet.
On the other side of the sky, the nearly-Full moon is in the east-southeast after sundown, above Spica. The moon is at its Full phase tomorrow afternoon. The phase of the moon and its proximity to Spica are a clear indication that spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere.
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