April 21, 2022: The gibbous moon is in the south before sunrise in front of Sagittarius. Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn are in the eastern sky before sunrise. Mercury is in the west-northwest after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:01 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:38 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning, the gibbous moon, 73% illuminated, is about 20° up in the south during morning twilight. It is above the spout of the Teapot that is part of Sagittarius. This morning it seems as though the lunar orb is being steamed from the hot vapors leaving the pot.
Many constellations do not resemble their namesakes. This is one of them. It seems to make a better teapot than a centaur, a creature that is part human and part horse.
During the moon’s cyclic trek in front of the distant stars and its recuring phases, it passes these stars each month.
The moon continues eastward on its celestial pathway, appearing near the planets beginning in three mornings.
Four bright planets are lined up in the eastern sky like gleaming jewels on a necklace.
Farther eastward from the moon, brilliant Venus is nearly 9° above the east-southeast horizon. It rises 96 minutes before sunrise and about 10 minutes after the beginning of morning twilight. Venus is quickly stepping eastward toward a proximate conjunction with Jupiter on April 30.
Jupiter is emerging from the sun’s glare after its solar conjunction over a month ago. It is moving eastward slower than Venus. When passed by Earth’s Twin Planet, Jupiter looks like it’s standing still.
This morning, Jupiter is over 5° above the eastern horizon and 8.6° to the lower left of Venus.
Mars, moving eastward slower than Venus, is 12.5° to the upper right of the Morning Star, with Saturn 11.1° to the upper right of the Red Planet.
Mars passed Saturn on April 5th. Mars, Venus, and Jupiter are moving away from Saturn that is plodding eastward at a speed so slow that it takes nearly 30 years to navigate the entire ecliptic and one revolution around the sun.
After sunset, swift Mercury, in the early stages of its best evening appearance of the year for northern hemisphere observers, is nearly 9° up in the west-northwest at 45 minutes after sunset. In about a week, Mercury passes the Pleiades star cluster. This evening the gap is 10.2°.
Each evening for the next week, the planet sets 2-3 minutes later compared to the time of sunset. This evening that figure is 100 minutes.
Notice the star Aldebaran, 21.2° to Mercury’s upper left. The planet passes 7.2° from that star on May 2.
Watch the moon and planets change their locations compared to each other and their stellar backgrounds.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Helical RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.