August 7, 2022: Summer reaches its mid-point shortly after midnight. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn parade across the morning sky. Evening’s bright gibbous moon is with Ophiuchus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:51 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:02 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The mid-point of summer occurs early this morning at 12:09 a.m. CDT. The season spans 93 days, 15 hours, and 50 minutes. The length of daylight today is fourteen hours, nine minutes.
Here is today’s planet forecast;
The Perseid meteor shower peaks in less than a week, although it is accompanied by a bright moon. The shower is occurring now, but at a lower rate. You’ll see as many bright meteors this morning as you will when the nearly Full moon’s light washes out the apex of the shower.
This morning set an early alarm and step outside at least two hours before sunrise. At this hour, the shower’s radiant is high in the eastern sky. Perseids appear in any part of the sky, but many of them can be seen near the point of emergence were the stream of dust and rocky debris collides with the atmosphere and vaporizes.
Later, four bright planets are in the sky before sunrise. The overall gap across the quartet continues to expand each morning. Soon, Saturn becomes difficult to see as Venus rises higher in the sky. Venus is easy to see when it is near the horizon, but dimmer Saturn tends to get lost when it dips below about 5° from the horizon. By month’s end, Saturn sets before Venus rises, leaving only three planets in the sky at the same time.
To find the four bright morning planets, start with Jupiter, over halfway up in the south. The Jovian Giant is retrograding in Cetus. Deneb Kaitos – the Sea Monster’s tail – is below Jupiter and about halfway to the horizon.
For sky watchers with a spotting scope or a small telescope, look for Callisto, one of the four large moons, near its western extreme from the planet. Europa is between Callisto and the planet, while Ganymede is east of Jupiter. At higher magnifications, the fourth moon, Io, is in front of the planet. Look closely for it.
A second giant planet, Saturn, is low in the west-southwest, over 45° from bright Jupiter. It is to the upper right of the star Fomalhaut, less than 15° above the west-southwest horizon, and less than 20° to the lower right of Skat – the lower leg of Aquarius.
The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Through a binocular, the planet is 1.3° to the upper right of the second star. Saturn retrogrades through late October moving toward Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). This morning this star is 4.4° to the lower right of Saturn.
To locate brilliant Venus and Mars look eastward. They are mixed in with the stars that are prominent during winter’s evening hours, making their first appearances in the eastern sky. Capella – meaning “the little she-goat” – is about halfway up in the east-northeast.
The Pleiades star cluster is to the right of Capella. They resemble a tiny dipper. The stars are not bright, but when they are bunched together, they attract your attention.
Mars, brighter than the Pleiades, but dimmer than Capella is 9.5° to the right of the star cluster. The Red Planet is still too far away to fit into the same binocular field with the stellar bunch.
Mars is marching eastward in Aries, crossing into Taurus in two mornings. The planet dances with the Bull until March 2023.
Mars is in the same binocular field of view as aquamarine Uranus. The Red Planet is 3.6° to the lower left of the more-distant, dimmer world. Watch Mars continue to trek away from Uranus during the upcoming days.
Morning Star Venus is lower in the sky, to the lower left of Taurus, and less than 7° up in the east-northeast. The planet is on a slow-slide into bright morning twilight. It rises only 103 minutes before sunrise and loses one to two minutes of rising time each morning until it passes behind the sun during early October.
This morning Venus is to the lower right of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, and to the lower left of famous Orion.
Orion’s appearance, low in the eastern sky before sunrise, is a signal that Sirius is about to make its first appearance – the heliacal rising – in the morning sky at Chicago’s latitude. The date of the first appearance depends on the latitude. More southerly locales see the star at earlier dates. August 10th is the predicted date for the first appearance at 40° north latitude.
The signal that Sirius is near its heliacal risnig is the rising of Procyon, sometimes known as the Little Dog Star, but its name means “before the dog.” Procyon rises several minutes before Sirius. While Orion is visible at Chicago’s latitude, Procyon is not visible before sunrise today.
Saturn, nearing its opposition in a week, rises 29 minutes after sunset. Wait until the sky is darker to look for it in the southeast. It’s visible nearly all night. There is no urgency to see it at this hour, unlike Mercury.
Thirty minutes after sunset, Mercury is less than 4° up in the west. The planet is bright, but in the bright blush of evening twilight, likely unnoticed without some persistence across multiple evenings and a binocular. The speedy planet sets 55 minutes after sunset, near is maximum setting time for this appearance. The planet sets at least 55 minutes after sundown through August 20, reaching its maximum setting time interval, 57 minutes, from August 11 through the 14th. This is a challenging evening appearance for northern hemisphere sky watchers.
An hour after sunset, when the sky is darker, the bright waxing gibbous moon, 78% illuminated, is over 20° up in the south in front of the stars of Ophiuchus. The lunar orb is to the upper left of Antares and the Scorpion, and to the upper left of Sagittarius.
With the bright moon, this is not the time to look for the Scorpion and the Archer. Return in about 10 days when the bright moon is out of the sky at this hour. It’s then possible to see the heart and curving body of Scorpius as well as the Teapot shape of Sagittarius.
Jupiter rises over two hours after sunset, followed by Mars over 90 minutes later. Find Saturn low in the southeast with Deneb Algedi and Nashira low in the southeast at three hours after the sun sets. At this hour Jupiter is low in the east, while the gibbous moon is in the south-southwest.
Saturn is leading the planet parade that is becoming stretched out and is soon difficult to see all the planets together. By tomorrow morning before sunrise, the four planets nearly span the sky from the west-southwest horizon to the east-northeast skyline.
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