May 12, 2022: The four bright morning planet gems – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn – continue to sparkle in the eastern sky. The bright gibbous moon is in the southern sky after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:34 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:01 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
In the Chicago area, the sun sets after 8 p.m. CDT. This continues until August 9, when sundown is before 8 p.m.
The four bright, spangled morning planets continue to decorate the eastern sky before sunrise. Brilliant Venus is “that bright star” low in the east during morning twilight.
Earth’s Twin Planet is the brightest and fastest moving world, among the morning quartet. Bright Jupiter is 10.9° to the upper right of the Morning Star. Venus is quickly stepping away from the Jovian Giant.
View Jupiter through a binocular. Depending on how steady the binocular is held, up to four of the largest Jovian satellites are visible. This morning, Ganymede, Europa, and Io are east of the planet, the side toward Venus. Callisto is west of Jupiter.
Mars is 9.7° to the upper right of Jupiter. The Red Planet is marching toward a conjunction with the giant planet on May 29.
Saturn is 25.8° to the upper right of Mars. The slow-moving Ringed Wonder is 46.3° to the upper right of Venus and the gaps open noticeably each morning.
In between, the Jupiter – Saturn gap is 35.4°. After their Great Conjunction during late 2020, Jupiter has been slowly moving eastward and away from Saturn. The Jovian Giant does not catch up to Saturn until 2040.
Now difficult to locate, Mercury is leaving the evening sky for an appearance next month in the morning sky with these four planet gems.
The bright gibbous moon is about halfway up in the south-southeast at one hour after sundown, 1.0° to the left of the star Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis.
Earlier this evening, the lunar orb covered the star for sky watchers in western Europa and western Africa.
Spica – “meaning the ear of corn” – is 13.6° to the lower left of the moon.
In three evenings, the moon passes into Earth’s shadow – total lunar eclipse. The moon hides in the shadow for nearly 90 minutes. Mid-eclipse occurs before midnight in the Central Time Zone.
Photos of lunar eclipses show a coppery moon. At the moon’s distance Earth’s shadow is not completely dark. Earth’s atmosphere removes the bluer colors and bends the redder hues into the shadow.
Sometimes the moon is very dark because dust in the air stops some of the redder colors. The level of this darkness is difficult to predict before the eclipse occurs. The Danjon scale with five rating levels describes the darkness, from invisible at the middle of the eclipse to very bright copper-red or orange.
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