August 6, 2022: Brilliant Venus is in conjunction with Pollux this morning. Venus joins, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the morning sky. The evening moon is with the Scorpion, looking like it’s been eaten.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:50 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:03 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Brilliant Venus and Mars are visible in the eastern sky before sunrise. Venus is low in the east-northeast in front of Gemini. The Twins – Castor and Pollux – are to the upper left of the planet. This morning Venus passes 6.5° to the lower right of Pollux.
Find the Morning Star is over 6° above the east-northeast horizon. Pollux is considerably dimmer and 10.0° up in the sky. Both fit snugly in a binocular, if assistance is needed to initially locate it.
At this hour, the eastern sky is full of bright stars, such as Capella, Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, and Rigel. Mars is above this congregation, over halfway up in the east-southeast. It is to the upper right of the Pleiades star cluster. Mars is too far away, yet, to appear in the same binocular field with the cluster.
The Red Planet is marching eastward in Aries, crossing into Taurus in a few mornings. The planet dances with the Bull until March 2023.
Mars is in the same binocular field of view as Uranus. The Red Planet is 3.0° to the lower left of the more-distant, dimmer world. Watch Mars continue to trek away from Uranus during the upcoming days.
Jupiter and Saturn join the eastern morning planets. Find Jupiter over halfway up in the southern sky. It is the second brightest star this morning, after Venus. The Jovian Giant is retrograding in Cetus.
For those with telescopes, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 2:55 a.m. CDT. The spot is visible approaching the center of the planet for about 50 minutes before the prime time and for the same time interval afterwards.
At the same time, the Jovian moon Callisto is near its greatest separation west of the planet. Through a binocular it looks like a dim star next to the planet, if the binocular is held firmly.
If you’re out looking at Jupiter at this hour, look for Perseid meteors. The region where the meteors emerge is high in the eastern sky. Meteors are more-focused in that region, but they can appear anywhere in the sky. This year’s Perseid’s peak morning is ruined by a bright moon.
Saturn is low in the southwest, to the west and higher than Fomalhaut that is low in the south-southwest. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Saturn is slowly passing Nashira and heading toward Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart).
The four morning planets span over 150° from the east-northeast horizon to the southwest. The morning planet parade continues to widen with Venus stepping eastward and Saturn following the westward migration of the sidereal background. By mid-month, the span grows over 10.0°. By the 20th, the Venus to Saturn gap is 170° and Saturn is becoming difficult to see low in the east-southeast during early morning twilight. Saturn sets as Venus rises on the 28th. Afterwards only three planets are in the sky simultaneously, either Venus or Saturn appears with Jupiter and Mars. Later in the year when Venus appears in the evening sky, five planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars appear together.
Thirty minutes after sunset, Mercury is less than 4° up in the west-northwest. It is bright, but washed out by the bright blush of evening twilight. If the sky is exceptionally clear and the horizon is free from obstacles, then it might be visible through a binocular. This is a most-difficult observation. The planet sets 54 minutes after sunset.
Saturn, nearing its opposition, rises in the east-southeast 32 minutes after sundown. Wait until the sky is darker to see it.
One hour after sunset, the waxing gibbous moon, 68% illuminated, is less than one-third of the way up in the south-southwest. It is mixed in with Scorpius, almost as if it were eaten. The lunar orb is 2.7° to the left of Dschubba, the Scorpion’s forehead. Earlier in the day, the moon occults this star from western Europe and northwestern Africa.
By three hours after sunset when the moon is low in the southwest, Saturn – with Deneb Algedi and Nashira – is less than one-third of the way up in the southeast.
- 2023, October 23: Venus at Greatest ElongationOctober 23, 2023: Venus moves to its farthest angular distance from the sun today, known as greatest elongation. During morning twilight, the Morning Star passes Leo’s Chertan.
- 2023, October 22: Moon Approaches SaturnOctober 22, 2023: During evening hours, the gibbous moon nears Saturn in the southern sky. Venus and Jupiter are visible during morning twilight.
- 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.