July 28, 2022: The four morning planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible before daybreak. Look eastward for a collection of bright stars with Venus and Mars. Saturn peeks above the horizon during evening twilight.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:41 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:13 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The moon reaches its New moon phase at 12:55 p.m. CDT today. If you’re attempting to find Mercury, the thin moon appears above speedy planet tomorrow evening. Otherwise look for it low in the west in two evenings at about 45 minutes after sunset.
Bright stars are slowly filling the eastern morning sky, joining brilliant Venus and Mars. Step outside about an hour before sunrise and look toward that direction. Likely the first star that catches the eye is Capella. It is the third brightest star visible from the northern half of the sky. The star is less than halfway up in the east-northeast.
The Pleiades star cluster is at about the same altitude – height above the horizon – as Capella, but in the eastern sky. This stellar bunch rides on the back of Taurus.
The Bull’s head is below the Pleiades, made by Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster – forming a sideways letter “V” or arrowhead.
The horns are tipped by Elnath and Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart).
Mars is over halfway up in the east-southeast and over 15° to the upper right of the Pleiades. The Red Planet passes the cluster on August 20. On the morning of the 19th, the moon passes between the planet and the stellar bunch, easily fitting into a binocular field of view.
Look carefully at Taurus. Mars enters the constellation on August 9 and it is found near the main features described here until late March 2023. The planet is at opposition on December 7. The next several months are interesting for watching Mars dance in front of the Bull.
At this hour, Venus is low in the east-northeast. It is slowly retreating toward brighter twilight and it slowly slips toward its solar conjunction during early October. The planet is quickly stepping through Gemini. Use a binocular to look for Castor and Pollux, the Twins, to the left of the Morning Star. They are making their first morning appearance.
Orion climbs across the horizon as the mid-point of summer nears. His shoulder stars – Betelgeuse and Bellatrix – are to the right of Venus and slightly higher. Use a binocular to find the belt stars and to see Rigel – his knee.
Each morning, the entire batch of stars is higher in the sky each morning. Look each clear morning to see them ascend skyward.
Looking southward, the bright star halfway up in the south is Jupiter. It seems to reverse its direction tomorrow and begins to retrograde. The planet is in front of Cetus. The monster’s tail – Deneb Kaitos – is between Jupiter and the horizon.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemiphere at 12:28 a.m. CDT. The planet is low in the eastern sky at this hour. The Red Spot is visible up to 50 minutes before and after the best time. Jupiter’s rapid rotation brings the spot into view and quickly carries it away.
Back in morning twilight, Saturn – to the lower right of Jupiter and over 20° up in the southwest – 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 two mornings, it makes an isosceles triangle with Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Saturn reaches opposition in a few weeks. Watch it move westward compared to Deneb Algedi and Nashira during the next several days.
Mercury is beginning an evening appearance, although it sets 44 minutes after sunset this evening. The planet is very difficult to spot, setting over 10 minutes after the brightest phase of evening twilight.
Saturn enters the sky less than an hour after sunset. By three hours after sundown, it is low in the southeast. Jupiter is low in the east. The Jovian Giant is bright enough to see when it is low in the sky. Mars follows Jupiter across the horizon, over four hours after sunset. By the beginning of morning twilight, the four bright planets are lined up from the east-northeast to the southwest.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.