May 8, 2022: Four bright planets – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn – stretch across the eastern sky. As night falls, the First Quarter moon is near Leo as Mercury is low in the west-northwest.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:38 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:57 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Venus, bright Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn stretch across the eastern sky this morning before sunrise. From Venus to Saturn, the gap is nearly 42°. With Venus east of Jupiter, the spread opens nearly one degree each day.
At forty-five minutes before sunrise, find Venus over 8° up in the east. Bright Jupiter is 7.1° to the upper right of the Morning Star.
This is the last morning of this appearance of Venus to see Venus and Jupiter together in the same binocular field. Each is near the edge of the field of view. Hold the binocular firmly and up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons are visible.
For those with telescopes, the Great Red Spot is visible for western hemisphere observers tomorrow morning and again on May 11 before sunrise. The planet is low in the sky, so the view is not the best to see the Jovian cloud features.
Mars, over 15° above the east-southeast horizon, is 11.9° to the upper right of Jupiter. The Red Planet is marching toward the Jovian Giant for a close conjunction at month’s end.
Saturn, over 22° up in the southeast, is nearly 23° to the upper right of Mars.
Each morning Venus widens the gap to the other three planets as Mars continues its approach to Jupiter.
The moon is at its First Quarter phase at 7:21 p.m. CDT. As night falls find it high in the southwest, to the lower right of Leo.
The moon passes into the depths of Earth’s shadow for nearly 90 minutes on the evening of May 15. This event is visible across the western hemisphere.
Regulus, meaning “the prince,” is the brightest star in Leo and 12.0° to the lower left of the lunar orb. It is the brightest star closest to the plane of the solar system. The star is in conjunction with the sun on August 23. It quickly moves into the morning sky and it is visible low in the eastern sky before sunrise.
Regulus is part of the “Sickle of Leo,” six stars that resemble a farmer’s cutting tool. The pattern resembles a backwards question mark. In celestial artwork, it makes the head and mane of the westward-facing Lion.
Denebola is the tail and part of a triangle that makes the haunches of the celestial creature.
Farther westward, Mercury is ending its best evening appearance of the year. The speedy planet is retreating into bright twilight and dimming quickly. Find it about 7° above the west-northwest horizon at 45 minutes after sunset. A binocular helps to find it. The star Aldebaran is 9.2° to the left of Mercury.
Mercury passes between Earth and the sun on May 21 and speeds into the morning sky. During mid-June, the five bright planets are visible simultaneously with the moon.
July 26, 2022: The crescent moon makes a spectacular artistic display with Venus before sunrise. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn arc across the sky above Venus. Draco is in the north after twilight ends.Keep reading
July 25, 2022: The thin crescent moon is nearly caught between the Bull’s horns before daybreak. The four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – nearly span the sky before daybreak.Keep reading