2022, May 9: Four Morning Planets, Evening Sickled Moon

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May 9, 2022: Morning Star Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are strung along the eastern sky before sunrise.  After sundown, the gibbous moon is near the Sickle of Leo, while Mercury is low in the west-northwest.

Chart Caption – 2022, May 9: Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are strung along the eastern horizon before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:37 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:58 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

The four morning planets, brilliant Venus, bright Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, span 43.0° this morning in the eastern sky before sunrise.

The highest and slowest moving planet is Saturn.  At forty-five minutes before sunrise, find the Ringed Wonder nearly 25° up in the southeast.  It is now the dimmest of the four planets.

Saturn is slowly moving eastward in Capricornus.  From its slow pace, it moves eastward at a speed so slowly it covers the same space in ten days along the plane of the solar system that Venus moves in only one day.  Because of this slow pace, Saturn circles through all the constellations of the zodiac and one orbit around the sun in nearly 30 years.

Mars, marching eastward in Aquarius, is 23.7° to the lower left of Saturn and 11.5° to the upper right of bright Jupiter.

2020, March 2: The morning planets span nearly 18° across the southeast horizon.

Mars is shifting toward a conjunction with Jupiter on May 29, when the Red Planet passes 0.6° to the lower right of the Jovian Giant.  Mars last passed Jupiter on March 20, 2020, eight months before the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. 

The next Jupiter – Mars conjunction occurs before sunrise on August 14, 2024, when Mars passes 0.3° to the upper left of Jupiter. This is the time of the first morning appearance of Sirius in the east-southeast.  This conjunction occurs in front of the stars of Taurus, about midway from Aldebaran to Elnath, the northern horn of the Bull.

This eclipse is followed by one November 16, 2026.  Mars is 1.2° to the upper left of Jupiter.  This occurs in front of Leo, with Jupiter 4.3° to the upper right of Regulus.  Venus is near Spica on this morning with Mercury to its lower left.

Jupiter is slow-moving, but not as slow as Saturn.  Its trip among the stars and around the sun lasts nearly 12 years.

The brightest planet and the fastest moving among this quartet is Venus.  This morning, it is 8.0° to the lower left of Jupiter and nearly 9° up in the eastern sky.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, May 9: The moon is near the “Sickle of Leo” after sunset.

As night falls, the gibbous moon, 61% illuminated, is over two-thirds of the way up in the sky above the south-southwest horizon.  It is in front of the stars of Leo, near the “Sickle of Leo,” six stars that make a farmer’s cutting tool.  The lunar orb is 4.5° to the upper left of Regulus.

Leo is a westward-facing Lion that resembles a stick figure.  The sickle pattern makes the head and mane of the great celestial Lion.  The haunches and tail are made by a triangle, dotted by Denebola – the Lion’s tail, to the east of the Sickle of Leo.

Chart Caption – 2022, May 9: Mercury is low in the west-northwest after sundown.

Farther westward, Mercury, off its best evening appearance of the year, is fleeing into bright twilight, dimming as it starts to move between Earth and the sun.  After its inferior conjunction on May 21, it jumps into the morning sky to join the crescent moon and the four morning planets during mid-June, a five-planet morning extravaganza.

This evening, use a binocular to find Mercury 6° up in the west-northwest at forty-five minutes after sunset.  It is 8.9° to the right of Aldebaran.  For this appearance of Mercury, there is no conjunction with the star.

Above Aldebaran, can you find the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri?  The star Capella is about one-third of the way up in the sky.  It’ll hang around in that part of the evening sky through next month.  Soon it is visible in the north-northeast before sunrise and here in the northwest after sunset.

Soon we say “goodbye” to Mercury as it completes the disappearing act in the western sky.

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