June 22, 2022: Spot the five bright planets in order from the sun before daybreak. The thick crescent moon is near Mars in the east-southeast before sunrise.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:16 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:30 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The sun reaches its latest setting time this evening. This runs through July 1. Daylight’s length is at its maximum, 15 hours, 14 minutes.
Step outside about an hour before sunrise. The thick waning crescent moon (Artemis), 36% illuminated, is one-third of the way up in the sky above the east-southeast horizon. Mars (Ares) is 4.8° to the upper left of the lunar orb.
Later today, the moon covers or occults the Red Planet from the South Pacific.
Bright Jupiter is about 10° to the upper right of the lunar crescent.
Saturn is farther westward, 30° up in the south and over 40° to the right of Jupiter.
Brilliant Venus is about 10° up in the east-northeast with Mercury 9.7° to its lower left. A binocular may be needed to initially find Mercury. On the morning of June 27, the thin crescent moon is 3.6° to the upper left of Mercury. Both are in the same binocular field of view on that morning.
This display is part of the morning planet parade of the five brightest planets. The unusual part of the string of worlds, extending along an arc from the east-northeast to the south, is that they are in order from the sunrise point – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
While the solar system is perceived as the planets in a line from the sun, starting with Mercury and ending with the classic ninth planet Pluto, the vastly different speeds of the planets prevent a perfect alignment of the planets in a straight line from the sun.
Seeing the five bright planets in their order from the sun is quite unusual. The last in-order alignment occurred during late 2004 and early 2005. The next time this occurs during January 2101.
Because of the slow speeds of Jupiter and Saturn, seeing the five bright planets in the sky simultaneously can occur during about a decade, centered on the Great Conjunctions of this planet duo. The last Jupiter – Saturn conjunction occurred on December 21, 2020. The next one occurs in 2040. During these time spans, the two planets are close enough in the skies of Earth that the other three bright planets can join them simultaneously.
During the decade-long windows, the five planets can occur in a mixed order about every two to four years, usually with Mercury closest to the sun.
This morning Mercury, low in the east-northeast, to Saturn, about 30° up in the south, the five bright planets span nearly 104° along the plane of the solar system. As viewed from the sun, the western-most planet is Saturn, while Venus is the eastern-most planet. They span only 51°, seemingly stepping stones from the sun into space. On the accompanying chart note the relative viewing angles of the five planets from Earth and the sun.
February 22, 2023: After sundown, Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon gather in the west-southwest. Look for them at 45 minutes after the sun sets.Keep reading
February 21, 2023: Use the sky map to find winter morning’s stars. The moon joins Venus as it approaches Jupiter. Mars marches eastward in a planetary showcase.Keep reading
February 20, 2023: Hercules is visible before sunrise in the eastern sky. Venus moves to within 10° of Jupiter after sundown, while Mars marches eastward against Taurus.Keep reading