July 31, 2022: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are scattered across the plane of the solar system before sunrise. The crescent moon, displaying earthshine, is visible in the west after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:44 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:10 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
At month’s end, the sun is in the sky 14 hours, 26 minutes, nearly 50 minutes shorter than at the summer solstice.
Four bright planets are strung along the plane of the solar system, from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest.
One hour before sunrise, find brilliant Venus low in the east-northeast. Find a clear horizon in that direction. The planet is slowly sliding into bright twilight.
Venus is stepping eastward in Gemini. This morning, Castor and Pollux, the Twins, are over 10° to the left of the Morning Star. A binocular may be helpful to see them. Venus does not fit into a binocular field with either star, but both stars fit together in the same field of view.
Mars is higher in the east-southeast. Currently, it is marching eastward in Aries toward a conjunction with the Pleiades star cluster on August 20. This morning, the Red Planet is less than 14° to the right of the cluster.
Looking southward, bright Jupiter is over halfway up in the sky. It is retrograding in Cetus. Look for the creature’s tail – Deneb Kaitos – to the lower left of Jupiter and about halfway to the horizon.
Saturn is over 20° above the southwest horizon and over 45° to the lower right of Jupiter. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in eastern Capricornus near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Fomalhaut – the “mouth of the southern fish” – is low in the south-southwest and below Skat – the lower leg of Aquarius.
The four bright planets stretch over 143° from Venus to Saturn. During August, Saturn becomes more difficult to see as Venus rises. On August 28, Saturn sets as Venus rises and after this date, the two planets do not appear together in the morning sky for this appearance of Venus. Venus rejoins Saturn in the evening sky later in the year. What is the last date you see Venus and Saturn together at the extremes of our morning view of the solar system’s plane?
Mercury is starting its worst appearance of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers. This evening it sets only 49 minutes after sunset. At its best, it sets about an hour after sundown, but it is visible during quite bright twilight.
After sunset, the crescent moon, 10% illuminated, is about 10° up in the west and about the same distance below Denebola – Leo’s tail.
Tonight, and for the next few evenings, look for earthshine on the moon. This is from sunlight reflecting from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land to gently light up the lunar night. A tripod-mounted camera making exposures up to a few seconds capture earthshine.
Saturn rises before the lunar scene occurs in the western sky. It is nearing opposition where Earth passes between it and the sun.
By three hours after sunset, Saturn is low in the southeast, while Jupiter is above the eastern horizon. Mars follows the Jovian Giant across the horizon about 90 minutes later.
By an hour before sunrise, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars have shifted farther westward, while Venus is low in the east-northeast. The members of this planet parade are separating slowly.
2022, July 31: Brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast, near Castor and Pollux, during morning twilight.
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