August 5, 2022: Bright stars including Orion appear in the eastern sky before sunrise. The four bright morning planets nearly span the sky. The moon is near Scorpius after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:49 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:04 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Today is the heliacal rising of Sirius from 35° north latitude. The first appearance of the star depends on the latitude. Sirius appears at more southerly latitudes earlier than the mid-latitudes.
The Perseid meteor shower peaks in about a week when the bright moon splashes light to wash out all but the brightest meteors. Being up early, before the beginning of morning twilight – about two hours before sunup today – may bring into view a Perseid or two.
Earth is passing through the outer extreme of the debris that makes the shower. Perseids can be seen in any direction, seemly emerge from the sky overhead. Before a busy workday, set an early alarm to take a look for a few.
The constellation Orion appears low in the eastern sky before daybreak. The famous pattern that appears in the evening sky during winter makes its first morning appearance, in the lead up to the heliacal rising of Sirius at more northerly latitudes.
The pattern is easy to find with a clear horizon toward the east. Orion’s shoulders – Betelgeuse and Bellatrix – are highest, but less than 20° above the horizon. Three stars of nearly equal brightness in a row make the Hunter’s belt. The knees are dotted by Rigel and Saiph. The second knee star is dimmer and about 5° above the east-southeast horizon at this hour.
Sirius’ appearance is imminent, when Procyon – meaning “before the dog” – rises. As the name translates, the star rises a little ahead of the Dog Star – Sirius. Procyon is not here, yet, from Chicago’s latitude. As noted earlier, Sirius is visible about 45 minutes before sunrise from 35° north latitude this morning, the heliacal rising for that latitude.
Brilliant Venus and Mars are part of the morning stellar congregation. Venus is low in the east-northeast in front of Gemini. The Twins – Castor and Pollux – are to the lower left of the planet. Venus passes 6.5° to the lower right of Pollux tomorrow morning.
Pollux is over 6° above the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system. The moon can pass closely, but the planets are typically far away when they appear to move through the area.
Venus is in a slow slide toward the sun, rising one to two minutes later each morning. Each morning it is slightly lower at this time interval before sunup.
Mars is over halfway up in the east-southeast. It is marching eastward in front of Aries, crossing into Taurus in four days. The Red Planet is 11.0° to the right of the Pleiades star cluster. Mars is not, yet, in the same binocular field as the star cluster.
On the morning of August 19, the moon appears between the Pleiades and Mars. The trio fits neatly into a binocular.
Mars is not as bright as might be expected. It increases in brightness as it moves eastward through Taurus. Do not confuse the planet with Aldebaran, the reddish star that highlights an eye. The Hyades star cluster and Aldebaran make a sideways letter “V” or arrowhead on the creature’s head.
This morning through a binocular, Mars is in the same field as Uranus – an aquamarine star, 2.5° to the upper right of the Red Planet. The gap continues to grow each morning, but the two can be seen through a binocular for several mornings.
Uranus is near the brightness limit of human eyesight. Sky watchers with a very dark sky might see it without the optical assist.
Bright Capella is high in the east-northeast, slightly lower than Mars appears in the east-southeast.
Jupiter and Saturn are farther west. The Jovian Giant is the bright star over halfway up in the south. It is retrograding in Cetus. The apparent westward motion is an illusion as our world begins to pass a slower-moving Jupiter.
The Sea Monster’s tail, Deneb Kaitos, is below the planet, about halfway to the horizon.
Saturn is low in the southwest, higher in the sky than Fomalhaut – the “mouth of the southern fish” – and lower than Skat – the lower leg of Aquarius. The Ring Wonder makes a compact triangle with Deneb Kaitos.
Like Jupiter, Saturn is retrograding. Earth is between the planet and the sun on August 14.
Each clear morning, the planet is farther westward, passing Nashira tomorrow morning. For over two months, Saturn continues its westward trek toward Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). Saturn resumes its westward course, passing Nashira and Deneb Algedi again. Watch through a binocular.
The four planets span nearly 150°. Soon Saturn becomes more difficult to see when it appears below the west-southwestern horizon at this hour. By month’s end, only three bright planets appear in the sky together, either Venus or Saturn with Jupiter and Mars.
The moon is at its First Quarter phase at 6:07 a.m. CDT.
Thirty minutes after sunset, bright Mercury is about 4° above the west-northwest horizon. If the planet were in a darker sky, it would be easily spotted. Now in bright twilight and near the horizon, the planet is not visible without the optical assist of a binocular and a very clear sky.
Nearing opposition, Saturn rises in the east-southeast 35 minutes after sunset. Look for it later in a darker sky when it is higher.
An hour after sunset, the moon is in the south-southwest. It is near the stars of Libra. On older star maps the stars were part of Scorpius and they retain those historic names, such as Zubenelgenubi – the southern pincer.
The main part of the Scorpion is to the left of the slightly gibbous moon. Graffias – meaning “the crab” – and Dschubba – “the forehead” – are to the left (east) of the lunar orb. The creature’s heart, Antares, is to the lower left of the moon.
By three hours after sunset, with the moon low in the southwest, Jupiter and Saturn are in the eastern sky. Jupiter is less than 10° up, but easily visible with a clear view in that direction. Saturn, with Deneb Algedi and Nashira, is in the southeast.
Mars follows Jupiter across the horizon about 90 minutes later and by morning twilight the four bright morning planets are again strung across the morning sky from east-northeast to the southwest. This is not for long, though. The Venus – Saturn gap is getting too large and soon Saturn sets before Venus rises. The planet parade is whittled to three bright planets in the sky simultaneously by month’s end.
February 28, 2023: One night before their close conjunction, Venus approaches Jupiter in the west-southwest after sundown. The moon is near the horns of Taurus with Mars nearby.Keep reading
February 27, 2023: Brilliant Venus approaches Jupiter, two nights before their conjunction. The moon passes close to Mars near midnight.Keep reading
February 26, 2023: As the Venus-Jupiter conjunction nears, the two planets are close in the west-southwest after sundown. The moon is near the Pleiades star cluster during the evening.Keep reading