August 8, 2022: Before morning twilight, look for bright Perseid meteors. Four bright planets continue to parade across the sky before sunrise. After sunset, the moon is with Sagittarius.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:52 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:00 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
After today, sunset occurs before 8:00 p.m. CDT. Sunset does not occur this late again in Chicago, Illinois, until May 10, 2023.
During the next week, the Perseid meteor shower peaks, but the moon washes out all but the brightest shooting stars. The shower is ongoing, but with reduced meteor counts. Set an early alarm to look for them.
As morning twilight begins nearly two hours before sunrise, the radiant – the spot in the sky where the shower is centered – is high in the eastern sky. Look toward that direction, although the meteors can appear anywhere on the firmament. Many times, you’ll see one streaking across the sky from your peripheral vision.
By an hour before sunrise, four bright planets are strung from the east-northeast horizon to to the southwest. Brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast, to the lower right of the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux. It continues to step eastward. Watch during the next few mornings as the planet forms a line with the two named stars.
Higher in the east-northeast, Mars is marching eastward in Aries, moving into Taurus tomorrow. This morning, find the Red Planet about halfway up in the east-southeast, 9.2° to the lower right of the Pleiades star cluster. The six or seven stars resemble a tiny dipper and tend to catch your attention because they are compactly bunched together.
Mars and the cluster are still too far apart to fit into the same binocular field. Mars passes the cluster on the 20th. One the morning of the 19th, Mars, the moon, and the Pleiades nicely fit into a binocular field.
Through a binocular this morning, Mars is still in the same field of view with Uranus, after their conjunction a week ago. The Red Planet is 4.1° to the lower left of the aquamarine planet.
The third bright planet is Jupiter. Find it over halfway up in the south-southwest. It is retrograding in Cetus. Earth is slowly catching up to this colossal planet. As Earth passes between the sun and the planet on September 26, the line of sight from Earth to the planet moves westward compared to the distant stars. The planet appears to back up compared to that sidereal background.
The tail of Cetus – Deneb Kaitos – is below the planet and about halfway toward the horizon.
For those sky watchers with telescopes, the planet’s Great Red Spot is visible in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere around 3:30 a.m. CDT. The planet’s rapid rotation presents the spot for us to see for about 50 minutes before and after the prime time.
In addition to the Sea Monster’s tail, Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – and Skat – the lower leg of Aquarius – are toward the west-southwest.
Saturn is near Deneb Algedi and Nashira in eastern Capricornus. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding, passing opposition in less than a week.
Through a binocular the planet is 1.3° to the upper right of Nashira and 4.3° to the upper left of Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart).
Through a telescope, the planet’s rings are easily visible and organized by their visual difference, simply named “A,” “B,” and “C.” The large moon, Titan, is nearing its greatest separation from the planet. Through a telescopic eyepiece, that shows magnifications of about 100x, the satellite is to the west of the planet.
Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and the only one with a thick atmosphere that is primarily nitrogen along with methane and other carbon compounds. The surface is obscured by clouds. It was first spotted in 1655, 45 years after the first observations of Jupiter’s four largest satellites.
At an hour before sunrise, the four planets are along an arc of the solar system’s plane that spans nearly 155°. Later this month, Saturn sets before Venus rises, leaving three bright planets visible simultaneously.
The planet parade is slowly shifting toward the evening sky. Before year’s end, five planets are displayed in the evening sky shortly after sunset in a mixed order – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars – spanning 136°.
The planet parade begins in the evening when the western-most planet, Saturn, rises 27 minutes after sunset. Wait until the sky is darker to look for it. The planet is visible nearly all night, so there’s a wide time window for seeing it.
Then again, Mercury is in a difficult-to-see apparition. It sets 56 minutes after sunset. At thirty minutes after sundown, the speedy planet is bright, but only about 5° above the western horizon. A binocular and an exceptionally clear sky are required to find it.
By an hour after sunset when the sky is dark enough to see stars, the bright moon, 88% illuminated, is in the south-southeast. The lunar orb is visible against Sagittarius. The brighter stars have a teapot shape. This evening the moon is near the pot’s spout. A binocular is needed to see the stars with the bright moon.
During daytime in North America, the moon occults or eclipses Nunki, a star in the Teapot’s handle. This is visible during the nighttime hours from New Zealand and southeast Australia.
By three hours after sundown, Jupiter is low in the eastern sky, while Saturn is less than one-third of the way up in the southeast.
Mars rises over 90 minutes after Jupiter, followed by Venus during morning twilight. A planet parade of four bright planets.
September 8, 2022: Three bright planets – Venus, Mars, and Jupiter – are visible before sunrise. Mars continues its eastward march in Taurus. After sundown, the bright moon is near Saturn.Keep reading
September 7, 2022: Mars passes Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, this morning. The conjunction’s gap is 4.3°. This evening, the bright moon is near Saturn.Keep reading
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