June 5, 2022: Saturn begins to retrograde today. It leads the morning planet parade before daybreak. As night falls the crescent moon is near the star Regulus and approaching Eta Leonis.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:17 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:22 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Today, Saturn begins to retrograde – move westward compared to the starry background. The planet stops moving eastward compared to the stars in western Capricornus and seems to backup against that starry background.
This occurs when our faster moving planet catches and passes between Saturn and the sun. The Ringed Wonder is 109° west of the sun, standing in the south-southeast during morning twilight. On the accompanying chart, a sightline from Earth to Saturn is marked with the letter “A.”
As our faster-moving world moves between Earth and Saturn, the sun and planet are in opposite directions in the sky. Saturn is in the east-southeast at the sun sets in the west-northwest. Saturn seems to trek across the sky during the night. As the sun rises in the east-northeast, the planet sets in the west-southwest. They are opposite in the sky. This event is known as opposition, marked with a “B” on the chart. Notice that from A to B the sightline moves westward.
By October, Earth is clearly beyond opposition and pulling away from Saturn, letter “C” on the chart and west of the opposition sightline. Saturn seems to stop retrograding and begins to move westward again compared to the starry background after this date. As retrograde ends, Saturn begins the evening in the south-southeast, 109° east of the sun.
During the 140 days that Saturn retrogrades, the planet’s apparent spot in the sky changes less than 7°. That is less than the distance from your thumb knuckle to your pinky finger knuckle when your arm is extended against the sky. In comparison, Mars retrogrades over 17° later this year.
Saturn’s retrograde fits into a binocular field of view. This morning, the planet is 2.0° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi – meaning “the kid’s tail.” On opposition night, it is 1.3° from Nashira – meaning “the lucky star of the verdant fields at the end of summer.” When the apparent motion ends, the Ringed Wonder is 0.6° from Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart)
Saturn is farther away than Mars. The apparent westward shift of the planets decreases as their distance increases. Saturn’s apparent retrograde distance is much less than Mars.
Saturn leads the bright planet parade westward. This morning, find it over 30° up in the south-southeast.
Bright Jupiter, over 23° up in the east-southeast, is over 39° to the lower left of the Ringed Wonder. Spot dimmer Mars, 4.1° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant.
Brilliant Venus, over 7° up in the east, is over 34° to the lower left of Jupiter.
Mercury is emerging from bright morning twilight, rising 42 minutes before sunup this morning.
Notice the star Fomalhaut, over 10° above the horizon in the southeast, to the lower left of Saturn.
After sundown, find the waxing moon in the west-southwest, 35% illuminated and 4.8° to the upper right of Regulus, meaning “the prince,” Leo’s brightest star.
Use a binocular to spot the thick lunar crescent. The moon is 0.6° to the lower right of the star Eta Leonis (η Leo on the chart). The chart shows the view after sunset in the Chicago region. During the evening, the moon moves closer to the star as they appear lower in the western sky.
From the American Southwest, western Canada, southern Alaska, eastern Russia, and Japan, the moon covers the star. See this resource for more information.
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