July 6, 2022: Four bright morning planets, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, are visible before daybreak. After sunset, the First Quarter Moon is in the southwest with Virgo.
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by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:22 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:28 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning, begin looking southward about an hour before sunrise. Saturn is about one-third of the way up in the sky. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near the star Deneb Algedi – meaning “the kid’s tail.” Retrograde motion is an illusion of the planet moving westward compared to the starry background. It occurs when Earth begins passing between the planet and the sun.
After it seemed to reverse direction last month, the planet moved slowly. Now it is picking up speed westward, although the change is small. A binocular reveals its reverse direction compared to Deneb Algedi and Nashira. This morning, Saturn is 1.5° above the first named star and 2.7° to the upper left of the second star. Each morning, continue to watch the planet seem to move relative to the two stars. By month’s end Saturn makes a triangle with them.
Look for the star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – about 20° up in the south and over 20° to the lower left of Saturn.
Approaching its opposition next month, Saturn rises two hours after sunset.
Bright Jupiter, over 40° above the southeast horizon, is nearly 45° from Saturn. The Jovian Giant is moving slowly in front of Cetus. It is slowing to reverse its direction on July 29, beginning to retrograde.
The planet rises about four hours after sunset. At this season this is after midnight for most time zones.
For early risers or all nighters with a telescope, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible in the south-central region of the planet at 2:18 a.m. CDT, when the planet is over 20° above the horizon in the Chicago area. The spot is visible for about 50 minutes before and after its best viewpoint.
After their conjunction during late-May, Mars is marching eastward and away from the slower moving Jupiter. This morning, Mars is over 20° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant.
Mars is moving toward a conjunction with the Pleiades next month. This morning the planet is over 30° to the upper right of the stellar bundle.
Brilliant Venus is about 9° above the east-northeast horizon. It continues stepping eastward in Taurus. The Morning Star is 7.3° to the left of Aldebaran, while Elnath is 9.5° to the left of the planet.
Find a clear horizon to see Venus and the background stars. Do not confuse Venus with Capella, the bright star that is over 20° above the northeast horizon and over 25° to the upper left of the planet.
Mercury continues its retreat into bright morning twilight. It rises 54 minutes before daybreak. Just 25 minutes before sunup, the planet is about 3° above the horizon. Seeing it is very challenging. The speedy planet’s observing prospects are worsening leading up to its superior conjunction with the sun in ten days. The planet moves into the evening sky for a very unfavorable apparition. At its best, it sets less than an hour after sunset. It is quite low in the western sky as night falls
The half-full moon is over 30° up in the southwest about an hour after sundown. Its eastern progress puts it with the stars of Virgo this evening. It is 10.1° to the upper right of Spica – meaning “the ear of corn” – and 4.5° to the left of Porrima.
The moon is at its First Quarter phase a 9:14 p.m. CDT.
- 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.