May 7, 2022: Venus continues to stretch the gap to Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn in the eastern sky before sunrise. The evening moon is in front of Cancer while Mercury is low in the west-northwest.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:39 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:56 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Four bright planets stretch across the eastern sky before sunrise. Brilliant Venus is that bright star, low in the eastern sky before sunrise. Bright Jupiter is 6.1° to the upper right of the Morning Star.
A week ago, Venus passed slower-moving Jupiter as they both move eastward along the plane of the solar system.
Venus continues to extend the gap to Saturn, the western end of the morning planet necklace. The Ringed Wonder, over 20° above the southeast horizon, is nearly 41° to the upper right of Venus.
In between, Mars is closing in on Jupiter for a conjunction at month’s end. The Red Planet, moving eastward at about half the speed of Venus, is 12.5° to the upper right of Jupiter.
This morning and tomorrow morning are the last two opportunities to spot Venus and Jupiter in the same binocular field of view. If held firmly, two of Jupiter’s moons, Callisto and Ganymede are visible on the east side of Jupiter, while Io and Europa are west of the planet’s globe. Likely Callisto is easiest to see because of its separation from the glare of Jupiter’s clouds. The quartet is visible through a small telescope or a spotting scope.
Through a telescope, Venus shows a morning gibbous phase that is 70% illuminated. No surface features are visible. The planet is covered by clouds that obscure the ground.
Through a telescopic eyepiece, Jupiter’s clouds are visible. The salmon and white stripes are whipped parallel to Jupiter’s equator by the planet’s rapid rotation. The four largest moons are always seen in the plane of the clouds, making them fairly easy to distinguish from distant stars.
While the planet is still low and the atmosphere may make Jupiter look like it is boiling through a telescope, the Great Red Spot is visible for western hemisphere observers on May 9 and May 11.
Mars, through a telescope, is disappointing. It looks like a rusty globe that is about one-third the size of Venus this morning. The view improves later in the year when Earth starts to pass between the Red Planet and the sun.
Saturn’s ring is visible through a telescope. The icy fragments revolve around the planet. The ring’s origin continues to intrigue planetary scientists. The planet’s largest moon, Titan, is to the east of the Ringed Wonder. The moon’s separation is about seven times the planet’s diameter, not including the rings.
Step outside this evening as night falls, the bright crescent moon, 41% illuminated, is nearly two-thirds of the way up in the west-southwestern sky. It is in front of the very dim stars of Cancer.
The lunar orb is 13.2° to the upper left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins with Castor, and 23.8° to the lower right of Regulus, the heart of Leo.
While this is not the night for great exploration of the Beehive star cluster. Find it with a binocular to the lower left of the moon. Return to this region when the moon leaves the evening sky in about two weeks to see it without bright moonlight interfering with the view.
The moon reaches its First Quarter phase tomorrow evening.
A total lunar eclipse occurs on the evening of May 15. The moon is fully immersed in the Earth’s shadow for 86 minutes. The best part of this eclipse is visible before midnight for most of the western hemisphere time zones.
Mercury is returning to bright twilight after its best evening show of the year. At forty-five minutes after sunset, the speedy planet is nearly 7° above the west-northwest horizon and 9.4° to the right of Aldebaran. Try to spot the two horns of Taurus, Elnath and Zeta Tauri above Aldebaran. Capella is the bright star high in the sky above Mercury.
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- 2023, October 8: Celestial Barnyard, Convergence at RegulusOctober 8, 2023: The moon is visible with a celestial barnyard during morning twilight. Venus and the lunar crescent head for a celestial gathering in two mornings.