May 4, 2022: The bright morning planets, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, are strung along the eastern sky. Mercury and the waxing moon are in the west-northwestern sky after sundown. The bright stars of winter are disappearing for the season.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:43 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:53 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus – over 8° up in the east – gleams brightly in the morning sky about forty-five minutes before sunup. It is 3.3° to the lower left of bright Jupiter. Just a few days after their close (proximate) conjunction, the two planets are still a delight to see together. Venus is quickly stepping away from Jupiter – widening the gap each morning.
Jupiter is slow-moving and it revolves around the sun in nearly 12 years. Its eastward direction is more difficult to see from day to day, unless it is tracked with a binocular to watch its changing position compared to the distant stars.
Mars, 14.1° to the upper right of Jupiter, revolves around the sun nearly every 1.9 years. The Red Planet is marching eastward toward Jupiter, quickly overtaking it at month’s end.
Among the four planets, Saturn is the most distant planet in the solar system easily seen without optical help and the slowest moving, traveling around the sun in nearly 30 years. The Ringed Wonder moves the slowest eastward. It appears that Venus and Mars are leaving Jupiter and Saturn in their planetary dust.
The continue to seem as though they are gems on a necklace strung across the eastern sky. The Venus – Saturn gap is 37.5°. Watch this gap continue to open during the upcoming weeks.
As night falls, the crescent moon – 15% illuminated – is above the horns of Taurus, Elnath and Zeta Tauri in the western sky. The evening crescent’s phase continues to grow (wax) as the planet moves farther eastward and away from the sun’s setting place.
Mercury is past its greatest elongation and retreating toward bright sunlight. Find it over 9° up in the west-northwest and 10.3° to the lower right of Aldebaran.
A binocular may help you initially find the Pleiades star cluster. It is 3.7° to the lower right of Mercury.
Note winter’s bright stars near the western horizon. They are slowly disappearing into the sun’s glare and the daytime sky before they reappear in the eastern morning sky during the summer.
Bright Sirius is 10° up in the southwest. Betelgeuse is nearly 20° up in the west, while Rigel is only a few degrees above the horizon. Aldebaran is 10° up in the west-northwest.
What are the last dates that you see these stars after sunset with and without a binocular?
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