July 25, 2022: The thin crescent moon is nearly caught between the Bull’s horns before daybreak. The four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – nearly span the sky before daybreak.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:38 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:16 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This morning a tiny whisper of a crescent moon is low in the east-northeast before sunrise. An hour before daybreak, find a clear horizon to see the crescent 12.6° to the upper right of brilliant Venus, less than 10° above the east-northeast horizon.
Venus is quickly stepping through Gemini, east of the two stars in Castor’s foot.
Castor is making its first morning appearance in the northeast, about 5° above the horizon and over 15° to the lower left of the Morning Star. Use a binocular to initially locate Castor. Can you see it without the binocular’s assist?
Look for earthshine on the night portion of the moon. Sunlight reflects from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land to gently illuminate the lunar night. From the moon, our planet is nearly at the Full Earth phase, a bright globe in the lunar sky.
Look carefully, the moon is nearly caught between the horns of Taurus, Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart. This is certainly a precarious place to be.
The head of Taurus is outlined by the sideways letter “V” made by the Hyades star cluster and the star Aldebaran, less than 20° to the upper right of the lunar crescent. The Pleiades star cluster is above the Bull’s head.
Tomorrow morning find the moon about 4° above Venus.
The bright star Capella – meaning “the little she-goat” is over one-third of the way up in the northeast sky, over 20° to the upper left of Venus.
Mars – dimmer than Venus and Capella, but brighter than Aldebaran – is about halfway up in the sky above the east-southeast horizon and 17.5° to the upper right of Pleiades. Mars is marching eastward in Aries. It passes the star cluster on August 20. On the previous morning, the moon is between Mars and the Pleiades. The trio easily fits into a binocular field on that morning.
Orion’s shoulders, Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, are low in the east, about 20° to the right of Venus.
Bright Jupiter is over half-way up in the south-southeast. It is slowing to reverse directions in Cetus. The planet begins to retrograde in four mornings.
For those with telescopes, the Great Red Spot is in the center of Jupiter in the southern hemisphere at 2:58 a.m. CDT. It is visible entering the eastern side of the planet about 50 minutes earlier and it departs from the western side about 50 minutes after its best view.
The fourth bright planet is Saturn. It is less than one-third of the way up in the southwest. It is over 45° to the lower right of Jupiter. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira in eastern Capricornus.
With a binocular note the two named stars along with a row of stars cataloged as 42 Capricorni (42 Cap on the chart), 44 Capricorni (44 Cap), and 45 Capricorni (45 Cap) that are in the same field of view with Saturn. The planet is slowly inching past 42 Cap, 44 Cap, and 45 Cap. In five mornings, it makes an isosceles triangle with Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
The gap from Venus to Saturn continues to grow each morning, over 135° this morning. During the next month, the separation from Venus to Saturn widens so that Saturn sets before Venus rises, leaving only three planets in the sky with Jupiter and Mars, either Saturn or Venus.
Mercury is beginning a disappointing appearance in the evening sky. After superior conjunction with the sun over a week ago, Mercury is east of the sun setting after our central star. This evening it sets 38 minutes after sunset. At its maximum during mid-August, the speedy planet only sets 57 minutes after the sun. Thirty minutes after sundown, it’s only 3° above the western horizon, a challenging view even with a binocular.
The planet parade begins when Saturn rises less than an hour after sunset. Earth is overtaking Saturn and moves between the Ringed Wonder and the sun on August 14. On that evening, Saturn rises at sunset. Leading up to opposition night, Saturn rises earlier each evening. By three hours after sunset this evening, the planet is less than 20° above the southeastern horizon.
At this time, Jupiter is peaking above the east horizon. It is bright enough to be seen when it is low in the sky if you have a clear horizon in that direction.
Mars rises 90 minutes after Jupiter.
As the night continues the three planets appear to parade westward.
Venus and the moon rise nearly two hours before sunrise and an hour later, the four worlds are strung across the sky with the moon near Venus.
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