July 7, 2022: Four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are lined up in the sky before daybreak. After sunset, the gibbous moon is near Spica.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:23 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:28 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
An hour before sunrise step outside. With long daylight and accompanying long twilight at the mid-northern latitudes, the sky is brighter than might be expected. Look toward the northeast for the bright star that is over 20° above the horizon. This is Capella – meaning “the little she goat.”
Venus is lower in the east-northeast, nearly 25° to the lower right of Capella and about 9° above the horizon. The planet is quickly stepping through Taurus. It is 8.3° to the lower left of Aldebaran – meaning “the follower” – and 8.6° to the lower right of Elnath – meaning “the one butting with horns.”
Aldebaran along with the Hyades star cluster makes a sideways letter “V,” outlining the head of the celestial Bull. The bright star represents an eye in celestial artwork. Elnath is the Bull’s northern horn. Zeta Tauri, the southern horn, is too low this morning to be visible without a binocular.
Venus is below an imaginary line from Aldebaran to Elnath.
Next month, Mars moves into Taurus and it is there until March 2023.
Bright Jupiter, about twice the brightness of Capella and dimmer than Venus, is nearly halfway up in the southeast. It is slowly moving eastward in Cetus. On July 29, it seems to stop moving eastward and begins to retrograde. This is an illusion from Earth beginning to catch Jupiter and it seems to move backwards compared to the distant stars.
Dimmer Mars is marching eastward in Pisces. It steps into Aries in two mornings. The Red Planet is nearly 24° to the lower left of Jupiter and one-third of the way from the Jovian Giant to Venus.
Saturn is one-third of the way up in the sky. It continues to retrograde in eastern Capricornus, near the star Deneb Algedi – meaning “the kid’s tail.” It moves slowly, but its motion can be easily seen compared to the distant star.
Do not confuse Saturn with Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – that is over 20° to the lower left of Saturn and about the same height above the southern horizon.
The four bright morning planets span nearly 113°. The Venus – Saturn gap continues to widen. When it reaches 180° Saturn sets as Venus rises, leaving three bright planets in the sky together. The Venus – Saturn opposition occurs on August 28.
Saturn rises 130 minutes after sundown. Soon, it begins its evening appearance.
The moon’s phase continues to grow and brighten after sunset. The gibbous moon, 61% illuminated, is one-third of the way up in the sky above the southwest horizon. It is 5.3° to the upper left of Spica – meaning “the ear of corn.”
Spica might be difficult to see with the moon nearby. Cover the moon with your hand as you would to block the sun’s glare.
At this season during the early evening, the Scorpion crawls into the southeastern sky. Its pincers reach westward. Their tips are adorned with Zubeneschamali – meaning “the northern claw” – and Zubenelgenubi – meaning “the southern claw.” Today, the stars are part of Libra.
Tomorrow evening the lunar orb is to the lower right of the southern pincer.
January 1, 2023: The Scorpion crawls into the southeastern sky before sunrise. After sunset, four bright planets and gibbous moon are along an arc across the sky.Keep reading
December 31, 2022: Mercury begins to depart the evening sky, leaving four bright planets – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars on display for New Year’s Eve.Keep reading
December 30, 2022: The night’s brightest star, Sirius, is in the south at midnight as the year ends. The bright planet evening display continues as Mercury disappears into bright twilight.Keep reading