2022, July 22: Morning Planet Alignment, Ophiuchus after Nightfall

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July 22, 2022: In the morning planet parade, the crescent moon is between Mars and the Pleiades star cluster.  Through a binocular the moon is near Uranus.  After sundown, Ophiuchus is in the south.

Chart Caption – 2022, July 22: Venus, Mars, and the lunar crescent are in the eastern sky before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:35 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:19 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

During morning twilight, about an hour before daybreak, the moon, 32% illuminated, is about 40° up in the east-southeast. 

The sky is dark enough to see some dimmer stars, such as the Pleiades star cluster.  The stellar bunch is over 10° to the lower left of the moon.  The reddish star Aldebaran is below the star cluster.

Mars, marching eastward in Aries, is less than 10° to the upper right of the lunar orb.  Mars, the lunar crescent, and the Pleiades are not in a line but the crescent is below an imaginary line that connects the other two celestial wonders.

When the moon returns next month, it passes between the Red Planet and the star cluster.  On the morning of August 19, the trio nicely fits into a binocular field of view.  Mars passes the cluster the next morning.

Chart Caption – 2022, July 22: Through a binocular, the moon appears near Uranus.

This morning, use a binocular to spot the planet Uranus, 2.1° to the upper right of the lunar crescent.  The planet appears as an aquamarine star. A telescope with magnification of about 100 power is needed to begin to see the planet’s globe.

Brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast, passing the foot of Castor, one of the Gemini Twins.  Use a binocular to see it near the star Tejat Posterior – the heel.

The star Capella is about one-third of the way up in the northeast, slightly lower than the Pleiades and the moon.

Look to the east, Orion’s shoulders – Betelgeuse and Bellatrix – are making their first morning appearances before sunrise. They are low in the sky.

Chart Caption – 2022, July 22: Jupiter and Saturn are in the southern sky before sunrise.

Looking southward, Jupiter is “that bright star” over halfway up in the sky above the south-southwest horizon.  The planet is slowing its eastward motion and begins to retrograde in a week.

Saturn, lower in the south-southwest, is already retrograding near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira in eastern Capricornus.  Earth is between the planet and the sun in a month.

Chart Caption – 2022, July 22: Through a binocular, Saturn is near bright and dim stars in eastern Capricornus.

Look at the starfield with a binocular. Along with Deneb Algedi and Nashira, three stars, cataloged as 42 Capricorni (42 Cap on the chart), 44 Capricorni (44 Cap), and 45 Capricorni (45 Cap), appear in the same field of view.  Watch Saturn move past the dimmer trio and then make an isosceles triangle with the two named stars at month’s end.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, July 22: Ophiuchus and Serpens are in the south as evening twilight ends.

As twilight ends, the dim stars of Ophiuchus and the serpent it holds are in the south, above Sagittarius and Scorpius and below Hercules.  Some mythology suggests that Ophiuchus was a physician that killed a snake.  The figure does not represent any major mythological character.

Now that the moon is out of the evening sky, its stars are easier to locate from areas that do not suffer from bright outdoor lighting.

Ophiuchus’ head – Rasalhague, meaning “the head of the serpent collector” – is near Rasalgethi, the head of Hercules.  Other somewhat bright stars are:

  • Cebalrai – the shepherd’s dog
  • Yed Prior – the foremost star in the hand
  • Yed Posterior – the hindmost star in the hand
  • Sabik – the second winner
  • Marfik – the elbow

On celestial artwork, Serpens is wrapped around Ophiuchus’ waist. The serpent constellation is split into two parts that are not connected, unique on the constellation quilt.  The eastern part is known as Serpens Cauda – the tail.  Its named star is Alya – meaning “the serpent.”  The western section is Serpens Caput – the head – that is marked by a triangle with stars dimmer than those in the Big Dipper.  One named star – Unukalhai, meaning “the serpent’s neck” – is below the head.

Chart Caption – 2022, July 22: Three hours after sunset, Saturn is low in the southeastern sky.

Saturn is the first planet to appear in the evening sky.  It rises over an hour after sunset.  At about three hours after sunset, it is low in the southeast.

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