July 19, 2022: The moon is near the Jupiter in the southern sky before daybreak. Pluto is at opposition tonight. Saturn is making its appearance in the east-southeast after twilight ends.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:32 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:21 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here is the planet forecast for today.
An hour before sunup this morning, the bright moon, 62% illuminated, is about halfway up in the sky about the south-southeast horizon. It is 4.5° to the lower left of bright Jupiter. Both easily fit into a binocular’s field of view.
If held steadily, the binocular should reveal two of Jupiter’s largest moons, Callisto and Ganymede, on the west side of the planet. That is the side away from the moon. They appear as dim stars. Ganymede reaches its maximum distance from the planet tomorrow before it swings back toward the Jovian Giant. Callisto is farthest away in two mornings, but both are easily inside the field of view.
Saturn is farther westward from Jupiter and the lunar orb, nearly 45° to the lower right of the Jovian Giant. It is less than a third of the way up in the south-southwest. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in eastern Capricornus and slowly moving near the star Deneb Algedi – meaning “the kid’s tail.”
Through a binocular, the star Nashira is visible with the tail star. Saturn is 1.3° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi and 2.1° to the upper left of Nashira. The planet does not seem to be moving far compared to those two stars.
In the binocular field, three dimmer stars are nearby. They are cataloged as 42 Capricorni (42 Cap on the chart), 44 Capricorni (44 Cap), and 45 Capricorni (45 Cap). Watch Saturn pass them during the next few mornings. Look each clear morning to spot the planet’s changing location.
Farther eastward and low in the east-northeast, Venus continues its quick stepping through the constellations. After a few days at the edge of Orion, the Morning Star moves into Gemini this morning.
Venus was with Taurus for several days, passing the pattern’s star clusters – Pleiades and Hyades – Aldebaran, the Bull’s brightest star, and then between the horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart).
The planet is a challenge to see. At this hour, Venus is less than 9° above the east-northeast horizon. Find an observing spot with a clear sighting toward that horizon. Venus is beginning to slip back into bright twilight before it passes behind the sun during October. It will be in this low position through this month and then begin its slow solar slide.
Mars is about one-third of the way from Jupiter to Venus. It marches eastward in Aries, toward its December opposition in Taurus. About a month from this morning, it passes the Pleiades star cluster. The Red Planet is nearly half-way up in the sky above the east-southeast horizon and 20° to the upper right of the star cluster.
Mars is not as bright as might be expected. It is still relatively far from us, compared to its closest on November 30. The planet is over 104 million miles away this morning. During November and December, it is as close as 52 million miles and brighter than Sirius, but not as bright as Jupiter.
Specifically, look for two stars this morning. Spot Capella in the northeast at about the same altitude – height above the horizon – as the Pleiades star cluster. Bellatrix, one of Orion’s shoulders. is very low in the east and to the lower right of Venus.
Attempt to look for Bellatrix. A binocular helps with the initial sighting. Can you see it without the binocular? More of Orion is to rise before Sirius makes its first morning appearance. Practice finding Bellatrix and the other bright stars in the region will help to see Sirius later.
For those with sufficiently large enough telescopes, Pluto is at opposition. Far beyond human vision, the classic ninth planet rises at sunset and sets in the morning in the western sky
Saturn is the first planet in the bright planet parade to appear after sunset. At 2.5 hours after sundown, the Ringed Wonder is over 10° above the eastern horizon. Through the night it appears farther west from Earth’s rotation. By tomorrow morning it is in the south-southwestern sky.
Jupiter follows Saturn across the eastern horizon about two hours after the Ring Wonder.
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