July 27, 2022: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and a thin crescent moon are in the sky before daybreak. The morning eastern sky is filling with bright stars and constellations.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:40 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:14 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Through a telescope, the planet’s Great Red Spot is in the middle of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 4:36 a.m. CDT. It is visible up to 50 minutes before and after the best viewing time as rapidly-rotating Jupiter brings the spot into view then carries it to the other side of the planet. The sky is brightening at this hour, so the bright planet and feature attraction might be a little washed out by the growing twilight.
Saturn, appearing lower in the sky each morning, is less than one-third of the way up in the southwest and over 45° to the lower right of Jupiter.
Saturn is the fourth bright planet visible this morning. It 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 west of these three dimmer stars and in three mornings, it makes an isosceles triangle with Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Turning our attention farther eastward, the sky in that direction has several bright stars and a thin crescent moon if you have a clear view toward the east-northeast. Begin with Capella – meaning “the little she goat” – about halfway in the northeast.
The Pleiades star cluster is a little higher in the east. It may catch your attention as you look at Capella and see the little bunch of stars from the corner of your eye.
Mars is about halfway up in the east-southeast and over 16° to the upper right of the Pleiades. The Red Planet is marching eastward in Aries toward a conjunction with the star cluster on August 20. On the morning of the 19th, the moon appears between the planet and the stellar bunch. The trio easily fits into a binocular field of view.
Then Mars continues its eastward march in Taurus, passing Aldebaran during early September and moving between the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart) during late October.
With a clear horizon toward the east, Orion’s brightest stars – Betelgeuse, Rigel and Bellatrix are nearly above the east cardinal point. Use a binocular to see the dimmer belt stars.
Farther to the left of Orion, about 8° up in the east-northeast is Morning Star Venus. This brilliant planet is beginning a slow slide into brighter twilight and its superior conjunction with the sun during early October. Each morning at this time frame, 60 minutes before sunrise, it appears slightly lower in the sky.
At this hour, the crescent moon, only 2% illuminated, is 9.9° to the lower left of Venus. It is barely above the horizon. In another fifteen to twenty minutes, the thin crescent is higher in the sky. Use a binocular to locate it.
In addition to the moon, look for Castor and Pollux, to the left of the crescent. All three of them fit into a binocular field of view.
Mercury is beginning a difficult-to-see evening appearance. This evening, the speedy planet sets 42 minutes the sun sets, about 10 minutes after the brightest phase of evening twilight ends. During this apparition, the planet is a challenge to see.
Saturn, nearing opposition next month, rises less than an hour after sunset. Find it low in the southeast by three hours after sundown.
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