August 4, 2022: Saturn dances with the stars in Capricornus. The Ringed Wonder is joined by Jupiter, Mars, and Venus before daybreak. The evening Moon is between Spica and Zubenelgenubi.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:48 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:05 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The four bright morning planets are spread across an arc from the east-northeast to southwest before sunrise. Saturn is near opposition, occurring on August 14. The planet is retrograding in eastern Capricornus. The planet and the constellation are in the southwest during early morning hours.
To find Saturn, first locate Jupiter. The Jovian Giant is the bright star high in the southern sky before sunrise. It is retrograding in Cetus. The Sea Monster’s tail, Deneb Kaitos, is below the bright planet about halfway to the horizon.
Saturn is in the southwest, to the upper right of the star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – and to the lower right of Skat – the lower leg of Aquarius.
Use a binocular to spot the planet with the starfield each morning. Saturn is near Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Each morning the Ringed Wonder appears farther westward, dancing past Nashira two days before opposition.
Retrograde motion is an illusion from our faster-moving planet passing the more-distant and slower-moving outer planet – one that is farther away from the sun than Earth. The line of sight between Earth and an outer planet normally moves eastward. When we begin to move between it and the sun, the line of sight begins to move westward – retrograde. After a time, the line of sight begins to move eastward again.
The chart above shows the binocular field where Saturn is moving during the next several mornings. Retrograde motion carries Saturn toward the star Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). Saturn retrogrades until October 23, when the line of sight begins to move eastward again.
For those with telescopes, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at about 1:20 a.m. CDT. The rapidly-rotating planet brings the long-live disturbance into view about 50 minutes before the best time and it disappears at about the same interval after its central display.
At an hour before daybreak, the sky is filling with bright stars. Mars and Venus are among them. The Red Planet is about the same distance east (to the left) of Jupiter as Saturn is to its lower right. Mars is over halfway up in the east-southeast. Distinctly reddish, do not confuse Mars with Aldebaran that is over a third of the way up in the east.
Mars is marching eastward in Aries, crossing into Taurus in five mornings. The planet is approaching the Pleiades star cluster, passing on the morning of August 20.
This morning, find Mars in the same binocular field as the planet Uranus. The Red Planet is 1.9° to the lower left of aquamarine Uranus. Look early before the brightening blush of morning twilight becomes brighter than the more-distant planet.
Capella – meaning “the little she-goat” – is about halfway up in the east-northeast, shining as the fourth brightest star visible from mid-northern latitudes.
Below Taurus, Orion is climbing upward near the east cardinal point. The constellation is easily found, starting with the three stars of nearly equal brightness that line up in a neat row – Orion’s belt. The Hunter’s shoulders are marked by Betelgeuse and Bellatrix. Rigel and Saiph are his knees.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus is low in the east-northeast, near Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins. The planet is slowly sliding into morning twilight, rising one to two minutes later each morning, making it a challenge to see without seeking a clear horizon.
The four bright planets, from Venus to Saturn, span over 148° this morning. By month’s end only three bright planets are in the sky simultaneously.
Thirty minutes after sunset, bright Mercury is less than 4° above the western horizon. The planet is difficult to locate in the brightness of evening twilight and its proximity to the sun. The planet has an unfavorable apparition during this cycle. This evening it sets 53 minutes after sunset, a few minutes shy of its maximum setting time interval.
An hour after sunset, the nearly-half-full moon is low in the southwest about halfway between Spica and Zubenelgenubi – the Scorpion’s southern pincer.
Saturn, nearing opposition on August 14, rises in the east-southeast 38 minutes after sunset. By three hours after sunset, it is in the southeast with Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Jupiter is above the eastern horizon at this hour.
September 6, 2022: Mars is marching eastward compared to the stars of Taurus. It is near the Hyades star cluster. The evening moon approaches SaturnKeep reading
September 5, 2022: Watch Mars continue its eastward march through Taurus before sunrise. Watch the Harvest Moon Effect during the next several evenings. Later in the evening the moon occults a star in Sagittarius.Keep reading