June 28, 2022: Four bright morning planets are easy to spot before sunrise. Mercury is a challenge to spot, making it five worlds if you can see it.
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by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:18 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:30 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The rare planet parade is breaking apart as Mercury departs the morning sky, leaving four bright planets strung along the sky from east-northeast to south. Without the moon to guide us to the planets, Mercury’s observation is a challenge. Perhaps this morning and tomorrow morning are the last times to catch the five planets in the sky simultaneously.
Locate a horizon with a clear view to the east-northeast. Brilliant Venus shines from about 8° up in the sky. The Pleiades star cluster is likely visible, 8° to the upper right of the brilliant Morning Star. It is outside the binocular field with the planet.
Aldebaran is making its first morning appearance. It is not yet visible to the unaided eye, but it fits into the same binocular field of view with Venus. The star is 5.4° below the planet.
At this time look for Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. Bright Jupiter is nearly 40° up in the southeast. Dimmer Mars is 17.9° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant. Saturn is about 30° above the southern horizon.
Venus and Jupiter are bright enough to follow into brighter twilight. For Mars and Saturn, locate them compared to a tree branch, rooftop or other terrestrial feature. As the sky brightens, use the landmark to locate the dimmer worlds.
At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury is only about 4° up in the sky, 11.3° to the lower left of Venus. Use a binocular to initially locate it. Then find the other four planets.
When looking for the stars and planet near Venus, turn the binocular toward the south and Saturn. The Ringed wonder is retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Retrograde motion – the apparent westward motion of a planet compared to the stars – is an illusion. During the next few weeks watch the planet approach Deneb Algedi and then Nashira.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.