April 19, 2022: The moon is in front of the stars of Scorpius. Four bright planets – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn – are visible before sunrise and Mercury after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:04 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:36 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
After midnight, the moon covers the star Dschubba (δ Sco) from the northeastern US and eastern Canada.
By forty-five minutes before sunrise, the lunar orb, 91% illuminated, is 2.0° to the left of Dschubba. The star marks the Scorpion’s forehead. Graffias, “the crab,” is 3.1° above Dschubba. Apparently, our ancestors did not know the difference between a crab and a scorpion or perhaps they thought that they had the same origins.
The lunar orb is 5.9° to the upper right of Antares, known as “the rival of Mars.” On celestial artwork, the star is at the Scorpion’s heart.
Farther eastward, four bright planets line up from the eastern horizon. Brilliant Venus is over 9° up in the east-southeast. It is quickly stepping eastward toward Jupiter, 10.2° to its lower left. The Jovian Giant is about 5° above the eastern horizon.
A Venus – Jupiter proximate conjunction occurs on April 30. The planets are about 0.5° apart before sunrise.
Mars, moving about half the eastward speed of Venus, is 11.8° to the upper right of Venus, while Saturn is 9.7° to the upper right of the Red Planet.
Mars catches up to Jupiter on May 29. The conjunction gap is 0.6°.
Saturn is moving eastward slower than Jupiter. Recall that Jupiter passed Saturn during late 2020 and will not catch up to Saturn again until 2040. This morning’s gap is 31.9° from Jupiter to Saturn.
The planets are moving eastward – to the left in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter opens a gap to Saturn each year as the Jovian Giant travels around the sun every twelve Earth years, while the Ringed Wonder takes nearly 30 years. During 2039, the Jupiter – Saturn gap closes to about 30° again, as Jupiter moves in slowly from the west, taking over a year to finally close in and pass Saturn again. These infrequent groupings are known as Great Conjunctions.
Mercury continues its sprint into the evening sky. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the speedy planet is nearly 8° up in the west-northwest, 13.4° to the lower right of the Pleiades star cluster.
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