May 5, 2022: Morning Star Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn gleam from the eastern sky this morning. A lovely lunar crescent is in front of the Gemini as Mercury recedes into bright twilight.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:42 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:54 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Just five days after their close (proximate) conjunction, brilliant Venus is near bright Jupiter in the eastern sky before sunrise. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the Morning Star is over 8° above the horizon. It rises 93 minutes before sunup and continues at about this time interval before the sun rises throughout the month.
Jupiter is 4.3° to the upper right of Venus. The Jovian Giant moves eastward much slower than Earth’s Twin Planet. Compared to the background stars, Venus is moving eastward along the plane of the solar system nearly six times faster than Jupiter.
Both planets are in the same binocular field as Venus moves eastward and away from Jupiter. If held steadily, up to four of Jupiter’s moons are visible. The quartet is on the same side of the Jupiter, toward Venus, this morning as seen from the western hemisphere. Inward, they are Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io. This formation changes day by day and major changes in their positions can be seen over several hours. A small telescope or spotting scope provides enough magnification to see them. Galileo first observed them with a telescope of about 20 power.
Mars is 13.6° to the upper right of Jupiter. The Red Planet is 15 times dimmer than Jupiter. Mars overtakes the Jovian Giant at month’s end. While not at the speed of Venus, Mars moves eastward four times faster than Jupiter as it closes in on the more distant world.
Saturn is the slowest moving of the bright outer planets. Venus moves eastward over 200 times faster than Saturn, while Mars is nearly twenty times faster. Jupiter’s eastward speed is only four times faster than the Ringed Wonder, the reason Jupiter – Saturn conjunctions are infrequent.
The beautiful crescent moon stands about halfway up in the west, in front of the stars of Gemini, as night falls. The crescent is 23% illuminated and this is another evening to spot earthshine on the night portion of the lunar globe.
The moon is 10.2° below the star Castor and 11.3° to the lower right of Pollux.
The constellation Gemini resembles two human stick figures with an arm around the other’s shoulder. The name stars are the heads of the Twins. The constellation stands upright in the western sky after sundown at this season.
Mercury, over 38° to the lower right of the lunar crescent and almost 9° above the west-northwestern horizon, is fading and sprinting toward bright twilight. The planet is dimmer than Aldebaran, 9.9° to Mercury’s upper left.
Mercury and the Pleiades are still in the same binocular field, but the star cluster’s low altitude is making this view challenging. The cluster is 4° to the lower right of the planet and about 7° above the horizon.
October 28, 2022: Arcturus appears higher in the east-northeast before sunrise. Spica arrives in the east-southeast soon. The moon is with Sagittarius and its Teapot.Keep reading