2022, July 9:  Mars Marches Into Aries, Scorpion Moon

July 9, 2022: The Red Planet marches into Aries this morning.  It is part of the morning planet parade with Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.  As night falls the lunar orb is clearly within the clutches of the Scorpion.

2022, July 9: Mars and Venus are in the eastern sky with Aries and Taurus before daybreak.
Chart Caption – 2022, July 9: Mars and Venus are in the eastern sky with Aries and Taurus before daybreak.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:24 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:27 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Daylight is slowly slipping through 15 hours in length.  In two mornings, that mark is reached at Chicago’s latitude.  By month’s end, daylight loses another thirty-four minutes.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

Mars marches into Aries this morning.  The Red Planet is not as bright as we would anticipate.  It is somewhat far from Earth now, but its brightness grows during the next several months.

This morning at one hour before sunrise, Mars is nearly 40° up in the east-southeast, 12.8° to the lower right of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star.  This star is nearly 10° north of the solar system’s plane (ecliptic).  No bright planet or the moon passes close to it.

The Pleiades star cluster is 28.0° to the lower left of the Red Planet.  Mars is generally heading in that direction, passing the cluster on August 20.

Mars begins a series of triple conjunctions with Aldebaran on September 7 and Elnath on October 10.

Earth passes between Mars and the sun on December 7 – the opposition of Mars.  The planet is strikingly bright at that time, but not as bright as Jupiter, but brighter than Sirius.

Mars retrogrades in Taurus, setting up interesting conjunctions with the bright named stars as well as with dimmer stars in this constellation that seems to be filled with many stars of different visual intensities that make for frequent opportunities to watch the planet’s changing place.

This morning at this hour, brilliant Venus is over 46° to the lower left of Mars and about 9° above the east-northeast horizon.  Do not confuse the Morning Star, likely hiding behind the neighborhood houses, buildings, or trees, with Capella, the bright star that is over 20° above the northeast horizon and 24.0° to the upper left of the brilliant planet.

Venus continues to quickly step eastward compared to the distant stars.  It is 10.4° to the lower left of Aldebaran and 7.2° to the lower right of Elnath.  It is clearly below an imaginary line that connects the two stars.

2022, July 9: Bright Jupiter and Mars are near each other in the eastern sky.
Chart Caption – 2022, July 9: Bright Jupiter and Mars are near each other in the eastern sky.

Bright Jupiter is to the upper right of Mars, nearly halfway up in the southeast.  Dimmer Mars is over 24° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant and about one-third of the way to Venus.

Jupiter is slowing to begin its retrograde on July 29.  Until then, Mars marches 14.5° eastward, while Jupiter only inches 0.6° in the same direction, seemingly slowing to reverse its direction.  Jupiter’s movement is slightly larger than the moon’s apparent size in the sky.  Extend your arm.  The width of the finger nail on your pinky finger is about that size.

The distance from Mars to Jupiter in the sky, seems to explode from Mars’ consistent eastward march and Jupiter’s seemingly deceleration to reverse its course.

Retrograde motion is an illusion from our faster-moving planet catching and passing between an outer planet and the sun. 

2022, July 9: Saturn is in the south-southwest in eastern Capricornus before sunup.
Chart Caption – 2022, July 9: Saturn is in the south-southwest in eastern Capricornus before sunup.

Saturn, nearly 45° from Jupiter and about 30° up in the south-southwest, is already retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near the star Deneb Algedi.  Our world passes between the Ringed Wonder and the sun on August 14.

Do not confuse Saturn with the star Fomalhaut, about 20° up in the south and over the same distance to the lower left of the planet.

2022, July 9: Through a binocular Saturn is near Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Chart Caption – 2022, July 9: Through a binocular Saturn is near Deneb Algedi and Nashira.

With Saturn picking up some westward speed, its changing place with the stars is easy to observe.  Locate Saturn through a binocular along with the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira.  Look each clear morning to watch the planet’s place change from the previous observation.  This morning the Ringed Wonder is 1.4° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi and 2.6° to the upper left of Nashira.  By month’s end Saturn makes a nice triangle with them.

Mercury, the fifth bright planet, is retreating into bright sunlight and circling behind the sun for its superior conjunction (with the sun).  It emerges into the evening sky next month for a poorly placed appearance.  Mercury is a challenge to find during bright evening twilight.

Evening Sky

2022, July 9: As night falls, the gibbous moon is in the Scorpion’s clutches.
Chart Caption – 2022, July 9: As night falls, the gibbous moon is in the Scorpion’s clutches.

The bright gibbous moon, 81% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the south with the stars of Libra.  The lunar orb’s brightness blots out the dimmer stars of Scorpius and some of the stars are near the horizon.  At this season as night falls, the Scorpion crawls across the southern horizon.  This evening, the arachnid has the moon fully in its grasp and seems to be pulling it toward its mouth.

The star Dschubba is thought to be the Scorpion’s forehead or crown.  Clearly the moon is in a precarious place in the sky.

The classic Scorpion is split into two constellations today, Scorpius and Libra.  The pincer stars – Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi – retain their classic names, but are part of today’s Libra.

The pattern resembles a scorpion.  The body curves down toward the southern horizon, with the reddish star Antares at the heart.  The body continues toward the horizon and suddenly curves upward to the stinger.

Return with the chart above in about a week when the moon rises later in the evening to see this celestial creature in its westward, summer crawl across the southern horizon.

In about twelve hours, the moon covers Dschubba for sky watchers in Japan, Korea, eastern China and parts of eastern Russia.

Tomorrow evening, the moon is near Antares for moon watchers in North America.

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