August 13, 2022: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, along with the moon, are nearing the end of the morning planet parade. The bright moon is near Saturn before sunrise and after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:57 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:54 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
This is the season for the first appearance of Sirius at the mid-northern latitudes. The predicted first appearance date depend on the latitude. The star first appears at more southerly latitudes and the visibility advances northward. The predicted date and the actual date of observing depends on whether the horizon is free from obstructions and weather conditions.
Much has been written about Sirius and its sighting in Egypt during the reign of the pharaohs. The annual helical rising of the star coincided with the rainy season in the Nile River’s tributaries, causing the river to flood in areas to the north. The floods left fertile soil when the river receded.
In two mornings, latitude 45° north experiences the geometric conditions to see the star above the east-southeast horizon before sunrise, depending on the conditions noted above.
Here is the planet visibility forecast for today:
Brilliant Venus and Mars are with the bright stars in the eastern sky that are visible during the evening hours in winter.
While the Red Planet is dimmer than the Morning Star, it is high in the east-southeast. It is approaching the Pleiades star cluster for a conjunction on the 20th. On the morning of the 19th the moon is between the planet and the star cluster, a very rare event because they fit into a binocular field, 7.5° across.
In future meetings of the trio, they are close together, but not within this field of view until June 18, 2058! Even then the fit is very tight and this occurs during twilight. During this interval, the next closest is an 8.1° field of view on March 16, 2051.
Interestingly, during this survey period, Venus, Mars, and Pleiades fit into a 6.5° circle on July 4, 2041.
Tomorrow, Mars and the star cluster fit into the same field of view, while this morning is the final morning to see the Red Planet with Uranus through a binocular. They are on opposite extremes of the field of view.
Brilliant Venus, slowly slipping into brighter twilight, is about 5° above the east-northeast horizon at this hour. It is stepping eastward in Cancer, to the lower left of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins.
Jupiter is the bright star over halfway up in the south-southwest. It is beginning to pickup westward speed, retrograding in Cetus, the Sea Monster. The creature’s tail, Deneb Kaitos, is about halfway from the planet to the southern horizon.
This morning’s bright moon, 97% illuminated, ruins the Perseid meteor shower. It is less than one-third of the way up in the southwest, near Skat, the lower leg of Aquarius. Use a binocular to see the star with the moon. Once the star is located, move the moon to the outside of the field for a better look.
Saturn, retrograding near Deneb Algedi and Nashira, is nearly 20° to the lower right of the moon and about 10° above the west-southwest horizon.
The four planets are becoming more difficult to see simultaneously. Venus is quick-stepping eastward and Saturn is generally following the westward constellation migration. This morning the Venus to Saturn gap is nearly 160°. On the 28th, Saturn sets as Venus rises. The bright morning planet parade continues to break apart and begins to form in the evening sky. Near year’s end, five planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars – arc eastward from the sunset spot. It’s not the rare sighting of the bright planets in order as they were two months ago, but they are easy to locate. During that grouping, Mercury sets 87 minutes after sunset. Venus sets about twenty minutes earlier, but it is easily visible when it is near the horizon.
Saturn rises shortly after sunset. Its opposition is tomorrow. The planet is visible all night. Look for it when the sky is darker in the southeast.
Thirty minutes after sunset, Mercury is less than 5° above the west horizon. The planet is at its maximum setting time interval, 57 minutes after sunset. Mercury is challenging to see. It is bright, but dimming as this apparition continues.
By three hours after sunset, Saturn, the bright moon, and Jupiter are in the eastern sky. Jupiter is low in the east with the bright moon to its upper right. Saturn is to the right of the moon and less than one-third of the way up in the sky above the southeast horizon.
Mars rises over 90 minutes after Jupiter and this trio again nearly spans the sky before sunrise tomorrow along with the moon, nearing Jupiter.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Helical RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.