April 27, 2022: Look for the crescent moon below Venus and Jupiter. Venus passes Neptune in a close conjunction. Speedy Mercury is in the west, near the Pleaides star cluster after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:52 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:45 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon are in the eastern sky before sunrise, although that lunar crescent is only 3° above the horizon and 5.1° to the lower left of the Morning Star.
Jupiter is 3.2° to the lower left of Venus and 4.1° to the upper left of the moon. Together the trio makes a nice triangle. They easily fit into the same binocular field of view.
Two other planets are lined up to the upper right of Venus. Mars is 14.7° to the upper right of Venus and Saturn is 15.2° to the upper right of the Red Planet.
The four planets span 33.1° from Jupiter to Saturn. Jupiter slowly inches away from Saturn and will not catch it again until 2040. Venus quickly steps eastward and Mars follows at about half the Venusian speed.
In three mornings, Venus passes Jupiter in a proximate conjunction, one that has a gap of about 0.5°.
In a challenging observation, Venus passes less than 0.5° from Neptune this morning. The more distant world is beyond the limits of eyesight and a telescope is needed to see it. Both fit into a telescopic eyepiece that has a magnification of about 80x. Because Neptune is bathed in the growing twilight and its low altitude in the sky, this is a difficult observation.
Note that Venus is a morning gibbous phase that is nearly 70% illuminated.
Neptune passed its solar conjunction on March 13. It is slowly climbing into the morning sky.
We note this difficult-to-see conjunction because it is the closest planet – planet conjunction during the 2020s. The next conjunction of these two worlds is February 15, 2023, the second closest conjunction of this decade.
In about two months, the classic nine planets, from Mercury to Pluto, are spread along an arc about 130° long.
Mercury is putting on its best evening appearance for sky watchers north of the equator. On spring evenings, the plane of the solar system is highly inclined to the western horizon, allowing us to easily see the speedy planet.
About 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury is over 11° up in the west-northwest. It is 2.5° to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster and 14.4° to the lower right of Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.
The planet and the star cluster easily fit into a binocular’s field of view. Additionally, look at Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster with the binocular’s optical assist.
During the next few evenings, watch Mercury pass the Pleiades.
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