May 3, 2022: Four morning planets – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are strung across the eastern sky, like gems on necklace, before sunup. Mercury and the crescent moon are in the western sky as night falls.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:44 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:52 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Four bright planets are strung across the eastern horizon, like bright gems on a necklace.
Brilliant Venus – nearly 9° up in the east – is 2.4° to the lower left of bright Jupiter. Just a few days after their proximate conjunction, Venus is near Jupiter, but it is stepping quickly eastward.
Venus passes Jupiter again on March 2, 2023, when they are in the evening sky.
This morning, the pair continues to fit into the field of a binocular.
Mars is marching eastward in the constellation Aquarius, 14.6° to the upper right of Jupiter. It passes the Jovian Giant on May 29. The conjunction gap is 0.6°. The Red Planet’s eastward speed is about half Venus’ quick-stepping tempo. The upcoming conjunction occurs nearly in slow motion compared to the speed that Venus passes other planets, but not at the excruciating, slow pace of a Jupiter – Saturn conjunction, like the one that occurred in 2020.
Saturn is slow-moving, 19.4° to the upper right of Mars and over 20° above the southeast horizon. Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are stepping away from the Ringed Wonder. Jupiter does not catch up again until 2040.
Tomorrow, watch the Venus – Jupiter gap widen and the Jupiter – Mars opening narrow.
The crescent moon seems to be caught between the Bull’s horns as night falls. Find the lunar slice, 9% illuminated, over 20° up in the west-northwest this evening at forty-five minutes after sundown. The moon is below the Bull’s horns, Elnath – also known as Beta Tauri – and Zeta Tauri, a precarious place.
Elnath – meaning the “one butting with horns” – is 5.4° to the moon’s upper right, while Zeta Tauri is 7.6° to the upper left.
Notice earthshine on the moon’s night portion. Sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land gently illuminate the lunar night. This is similar to bright moonlight illuminating terrestrial features. In less than a week, the moon’s illumination is casting shadows across Earth at night.
Photograph earthshine with a tripod camera with exposures ranging up to a few seconds, depending on the camera’s characteristics.
Mercury is beginning to exit the evening sky and dimming as it moves toward inferior conjunction between Earth and the sun. At the time the moon is putting on its evening show, Mercury is less than 10° up in the west-northwest, 15.6° to the lower right of the moon’s crescent. The speedy planet is 3.1° to the upper left of the Pleiades star cluster.
The star cluster is becoming more difficult to see as it slides into evening twilight. It passes behind the sun on May 20 and into the morning sky. What is the last date you see the Pleiades without a binocular?
September 15, 2022: Three bright planets – Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter – are strung across the sky after midnight. Before sunrise, look for the moon near Mars.Keep reading
September 14, 2022: Three bright planets and the moon are visible overnight. The moon is near Uranus before daybreak. The Sickle of Leo is in the eastern sky before sunrise.Keep reading
September 13, 2022: Contrary to Internet memes, Mars will not appear as large as the moon when the Red Planet is closest to Earth. Overnight a planet display with Mars, the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn arches across the sky.Keep reading