April 29, 2022: This evening, Mercury has a conjunction with the Pleiades star cluster. In the eastern morning sky, four bright planets – Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn – stretch across the sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:50 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:47 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Four bright planets stretch across the eastern sky, from Jupiter in the east to Saturn in the southeast, spanning 33.1°. The four planets are stretched out along the plane of the solar system, like gems on a necklace.
Venus is on its final approach to Jupiter leading to tomorrow’s close (proximate) conjunction. At 45 minutes before sunup, brilliant Venus is over 8° above the eastern horizon. Jupiter is 1.3° to the lower left of Venus.
Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest “stars” in the sky. Only the sun and moon are brighter. When close to Earth, Mars can be brighter than Jupiter.
To our unaided eyes, the planets look like stars. The globes of the worlds are revealed when spotted through a telescope while the distant suns still appear as points of light.
Venus – Jupiter conjunctions occur when the two planets are near the sun. Venus seems tethered to the central star. It only ventures about 47° east or west of the sun. This Morning Star passed between Earth and the sun during early January and jumped into the morning sky.
Slower-moving Jupiter passed its solar conjunction nearly two months ago and began a slow climb into the morning sky.
Venus and Jupiter fit into a binocular’s field of view. Hold the optics steady for a view of Jupiter’s largest moons.
Mars and Saturn are to the upper right of the impending Venus – Jupiter conjunction. The Red Planet is 15.5° to the upper right of Venus and nearly 15° above the east-southeastern horizon. Saturn, nearly 20° above the southeast horizon, is 16.6° to the upper right of Mars.
Tomorrow, look for Venus and Jupiter very close together before sunrise.
Mercury passes the Pleiades star cluster in the western sky after sunset. Find the speedy planet about 10° above the west-northwest as night falls. It is 1.3° to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster, in particular the cluster’s brightest star Eta Tauri also known as Alcyone.
Look at the scene with a binocular. How many stars can you see in the cluster?
Also note the Hyades star cluster with the star Aldebaran, the brightest in Taurus, 12.9° to the upper left of Mercury.
The Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri, are high above Aldebaran.
Watch Mercury continue to move past the cluster. The crescent moon joins the scene in a few evenings.
2022, April 29: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn are along the plane of the ecliptic in the eastern sky before sunrise.
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