April 22, 2022: Morning Star Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are in the eastern morning sky before sunup to the east of the slightly gibbous moon. Mercury is in the western evening sky, approaching the Pleaides star cluster.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:00 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:39 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Step outside during morning twilight, about 45 minutes before sunup. The moon, 62% illuminated, is about 20° up in the south-southeast and to the left of the Teapot of Sagittarius.
The moon is at its Last Quarter phase tomorrow morning when it is 50% illuminated. Find it east of this morning’s place.
The lunar orb is moving eastward to pass by the morning planets as it hops eastward each morning.
Farther eastward four of the five brightest planets gleam in the east-southeast sky. The easiest to locate is brilliant Venus, nearly 9° above the east-southeast horizon. The Morning Star is quickly stepping eastward toward bright Jupiter, 7.6° to the lower left of Venus and over 5° above the horizon.
The Venus – Jupiter proximate conjunction occurs on April 30, when the planet-duo is about 0.5° apart.
Mars is marching eastward, 12.9° to the upper right of Venus and 11.7° to the lower left of Saturn. The Red Planet overtakes Jupiter in about a month.
The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 32.4°. The gap is slowly widening between the Jovian Giant and Ringed Wonder.
The four morning planets are not close together in the sky until 2040, when they are within 7° of each other in the evening sky. So, enjoy this splendid view of four jewels of the solar system that are strung across the eastern sky.
After sunset, speedy, elusive Mercury is in the west-northwest. Find it over 9° above the horizon at 45 minutes after sunset. Like the other planets, it appears as a bright star. It is 8.7° to the lower right of the Pleiades star cluster. The planet is quickly moving in for a conjunction with the stellar bunch in about a week. In two evenings, they begin appearing in the same binocular field of view.
Mercury is in its best evening appearance of the year for northern hemisphere observers. The plane of our solar system is tilted highly to the horizon during the spring months to provide the best glimpses of Mercury. The planet’s best morning appearances occur during the autumn months.
Step outside on the next clear evening to view Mercury. The star cluster is a cue where to locate it.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.