August 1, 2022: Mars passes Uranus before sunrise. The Red Planet is part of the expanding morning planet parade. The evening crescent moon is in the western sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:45 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:09 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Today is the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius for latitude 30° north. The date of the first appearance depends on latitude. More southerly latitudes see the star first.
This morning Mars, marching eastward in Aries, passes the planet Uranus. Mars movement is obvious from morning to morning through a binocular. While Mars is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, start by finding Jupiter.
At one hour before sunrise, the Jovian Giant is over halfway up in the southern sky. It is the second brightest “star” in the morning sky after Venus. Jupiter is retrograding in Cetus. Its apparent westward motion began a few days ago and it seems to be in the same spot compared to the sidereal background. If you’re out earlier looking for Mars and Uranus, it’ll still be in the south, but more south-southeast before twilight begins.
With Jupiter in Cetus, the Sea Monster’s tail – Deneb Kaitos – is below the planet, about halfway to the horizon. Farther westward is Fomalhaut – the “mouth of the southern fish.” Skat – the lower leg of Aquarius – is about 15° to the upper right of Fomalhaut.
Saturn is about 20° up in the southwest, higher than Fomalhaut, but lower than Skat. It is retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Each clear morning, find the planet with the starfield through a binocular. It is moving toward Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart)
Back to Mars, start looking as early as possible to see the planet with Uranus and the background stars. Morning twilight begins about two hours before sunrise. An earlier start provides a darker sky to find the dimmer planet through a binocular.
The Red Planet is over halfway up in the east-southeast, over 40° to the left of Jupiter. The planet is not as bright as might be expected. It is over 13° to the right of the Pleiades star cluster.
The Pleiades rides on the back of Taurus. The Bull’s head is outlined by the Hyades star cluster, while Aldebaran dots an eye.
Use a binocular to find Mars, 1.3° to the lower right of the more-distant Uranus that looks like an aquamarine star. The star Botein – meaning “the belly” – appears at the upper left of the field of view. Mars and Uranus fit into the same binocular field of view for several more mornings.
This morning Mars is about 105 million miles away, while Uranus is over 17 times more distant.
The Red Planet is beginning an interesting component of its apparition. It moves from Aries into Taurus on August 9 and stays there until March 2023. Make frequent observations of its location in the rich starfields of the constellation. It passes the Pleiades on August 20. Watch it pass the Hyades and move between the horns before it retrogrades on October 30, passing opposition on December 7. On January 12, 2023, it reverses its direction and starts eastward again, moving between the horns for a third time. Mars passes Aldebaran, Elnath, and Zeta Tauri three times. It has triple conjunctions with other stars as well. Choose your favorites in the constellation and watch Mars pass them.
Venus is the fourth planet this morning. It is low in the east-northeast, likely behind the neighborhood trees, houses, or other structures. It is quickly stepping through Gemini. The Twins, Castor and Pollux, are to the left of the brilliant planet.
Venus is slowly slipping into brighter twilight, rising one to two minutes later each morning until it passes its solar conjunction during October, to reappear in the evening sky later during the year.
Four bright planets are strung along the plane of the solar system, from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest.
Mercury is in a poorly-observable apparition in the evening sky. It is somewhat bright but hiding in bright twilight. At 30 minutes after sunset, it is only 3° above the west-northwest horizon. From a spot with a clear horizon and a binocular, try to see the planet. While it is brighter than any star in the sky until Jupiter rises, it is hiding in bright twilight. The speedy planet sets 50 minutes after sundown. If you saw it during its appearance in the five-planet alignment during late June, it’s more difficult to see than on those mornings.
Saturn, nearing its opposition on August 14, rises in the east-southeast 47 minutes after the sun sets. Look for it later in the evening.
One hour after sunset, the crescent moon, nearly 15° up in the west is 11.4° to the lower left of Denebola – the Lion’s tail – and 2.6° above Zavijava – meaning “the corner of the barking dog.”
This is another evening to observe earthshine on the moon and attempt to photograph it with exposures up to a few seconds with a tripod-mounted camera.
By three hours after sunset, Saturn is low in the southeast, while Jupiter is above the horizon in the east. Mars rises over an hour later. By the beginning of morning twilight, the ever-expanding morning planet parade extends from the east-northeast to the southwest, similar to what was there this morning.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 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.