July 24, 2022: A thin crescent moon is in the eastern sky this morning, along with the planet parade that includes Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:37 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:17 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Daylight’s length is 14 hours, 40 minutes at Chicago’s latitude. Since the solstice, the sun is in the sky for 35 fewer minutes today.
An hour before sunrise, the waning crescent moon, 16% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the eastern sky. It is over 8° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the bright star that marks an eye of Taurus.
The moon is displaying earthshine – reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that gently lights up the lunar night. Photograph it with a tripod-mounted camera and an exposure up to a few seconds.
Locate the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart) to the lower left of the crescent.
The Pleiades star cluster may catch your eye. The stellar bunch is nearly halfway up in the east.
Capella is the bright star, less than halfway up in the east-northeast.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus is less than 10° above the east-northeast horizon. Find a clear view toward that horizon.
Orion’s shoulders – Betelgeuse and Bellatrix – are just above the eastern horizon.
The first appearance of Sirius is about to occur, depending on the latitude. For Chicago, that’s about the middle of next month. It occurs earlier for more southerly latitudes. At 20° north latitude, the first appearance occurs today.
Dimmer Mars, nearly halfway up in the east-southeast and marching eastward in Aries, is over 18° to the upper right of the Pleiades. The planet is generally heading toward the cluster. It passes the cluster in less than a month.
Bright Jupiter is nearly 50° above the south-southeast horizon. It is slowing its eastward motion in Cetus before it begins to retrograde in less than a week.
Retrograde motion is an illusion from our faster-moving planet overtaking and passing between the planet and the sun. Those distant worlds seem to back up for a while, then resume their normal eastward motion after Earth moves away.
Notice the sea monster’s tail, Deneb Kaitos, about 20° below the Jovian Giant.
Saturn, less than a third of the way up in the southwest, is over 45° to the lower right of Jupiter. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira 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 pass the dimmer trio and then make an isosceles triangle with the two named stars at month’s end.
For those with a telescope, Saturn’s moon Titan is at its maximum distance from the planet It appears in the same plane as the rings on the east side of the planet as a star, even through the telescope’s eyepiece. The accompanying chart shows the view at about 80x magnification.
Fomalhaut – the mouth of the southern fish – is over 20° to the lower left of Saturn.
The four morning planets span nearly 135° from Venus in the east-northeast to Saturn in the southwest. The gap widens each day from Venus stepping eastward with Saturn retrograding and generally following the westward migration of the stars.
Mercury is beginning its evening appearance, but the planet does not make it very high in the western sky. This evening it sets only 36 minutes after sundown.
The morning planet parade begins when Saturn crosses the east-southeast horizon, an hour after sunset. Two hours later, the Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° above the southeast horizon. At about this time, Jupiter is rising near the east cardinal point.
Mars follows Jupiter after midnight, about 90 minutes after the Jovian Giant rises.
Venus rises nearly two hours before sunrise. Tomorrow morning, the crescent moon nears Venus and rises about four hours before sunrise.
An hour before sunrise, the four planets and the moon are strung westward from the approaching sunrise.
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