August 9, 2022: Mars moves into Taurus this morning. It joins Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn in the parade of bright morning planets. After sundown, the moon approaches Saturn.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:53 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:59 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
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. This may be the last morning to see dimmer meteors before the shower’s peak. The moon sets later each morning and tomorrow morning, the window between moonset and the beginning of morning twilight is closing.
As morning twilight begins nearly two hours before sunrise, the radiant – the spot in the sky where the shower appears – is high in the eastern sky. The display appears anywhere on the starry vault, but more can be seen in the radiant’s area.
This morning Mars moves into Taurus, less than four months before the planet’s opposition, 9.8° from Aldebaran.
This morning, the Red Planet is 8.8° to the right of the Pleiades star cluster. Mars passes by on the 20th. On the morning of the 19th, the moon appears between the planet and cluster. The trio fits into the same binocular field. Groupings of this trio are rare events. It’s not unusual to see the moon with the Pleiades or Mars with the stellar bunch, but not the three in the same binocular field.
Watch Mars march eastward in the constellation, passing the Hyades star cluster and Aldebaran. Then it passes between the horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri – and reverses its direction near Halloween. The planet retrogrades and passes opposition on December 7.
This morning Mars still fits into the same binocular field with Uranus. Mars is 4.7° to the lower left of the aquamarine planet.
Uranus is at the brightness limit of human perception without the aid of a binocular or telescope. For those living in regions without suffering from outdoor lighting, the planet might be visible without an optical assist.
In comparison to Mars, watch Venus quickly step eastward with Castor and Pollux during the next few mornings. It makes a line with the two named stars in Gemini and then moves farther eastward. Find the Morning Star only 6° up in the east-northeast. It is easily visible this low in the sky because of its brightness, unlike other dimmer stars and planets when they are near the horizon.
Venus is slowly slipping into bright twilight. It loses two to three minutes of rising time interval before sunrise each morning as it heads towards its solar conjunction during early October. This morning it rises 101 minutes before daybreak.
This morning planet parade continues to widen. Venus and Mars continue their eastward treks and Saturn and Jupiter generally follow the westward migration of the stars.
Because it is over halfway up in the south-southwest, Jupiter is likely the easiest planet to initially locate. It is brighter than all the stars this morning, except for Venus. It is retrograding with the dim stars of Cetus. The Sea Monster’s tail – Deneb Kaitos – is about halfway from the southern horizon to Jupiter.
Dimmer Saturn is less than one-third of the way up in the southwest. Do not confuse it with Fomalhaut that is slightly lower in the south-southwest. The Ringed Wonder is lower than the star Skat, to the upper right of Fomalhaut and the upper left of Saturn.
Saturn is near Deneb Algedi and Nashira in eastern Capricornus. It is retrograding, passing opposition in less than a week.
This planet quartet spans nearly 155° this morning, from Venus to Saturn.
Five days before its opposition, Saturn rises 24 minutes after sunset. The Ringed Wonder is in the sky nearly all night. You can find it higher in the southeast later in the evening.
Mercury, in a disappointing appearance from the northern hemisphere, is less than 5° above the western horizon 30 minutes after sunset. To find this planet in the bright blush of evening twilight, an unobstructed horizon, an exceptionally clear sky, and a binocular are needed.
When the stars are visible at an hour after sundown, the bright moon, 94% illuminated, is low in the south-southeast. The lunar orb is over 30° to the upper right of Saturn that is low in the east-southeast.
Two hours later, Saturn is less than a third of the way up in the southeast, about 30° to the left of the moon. Bright Jupiter, over 10° above the east horizon is to the lower left of Saturn. If you look later, they are farther westward. The moon sets about 30 minutes before morning twilight begins. By an hour before daybreak, the four bright planets are strung from nearly the west-southwest horizon to the east-northeast skyline.
PODCAST FOR THIS ARTICLE
September 15, 2022: Three bright planets – Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter – are strung across the sky after midnight. Before sunrise, look for the moon near Mars.Keep reading
September 14, 2022: Three bright planets and the moon are visible overnight. The moon is near Uranus before daybreak. The Sickle of Leo is in the eastern sky before sunrise.Keep reading
September 13, 2022: Contrary to Internet memes, Mars will not appear as large as the moon when the Red Planet is closest to Earth. Overnight a planet display with Mars, the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn arches across the sky.Keep reading