2022, August 18: Morning Moon Approaches Mars, Summer Milky Way

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August 18, 2022: The moon approaches Mars and the Pleiades before their rare grouping tomorrow morning.  The Milky Way is visible on moonless August evenings.

Chart Caption – 2022, August 18: The moon is near Mars and the Pleiades before daybreak.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:02 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:46 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Here is the planet forecast for today:

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

The last call is about two days away to see simultaneously the four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – in the morning planet parade.  Can you find all four of them spanning from the east-northeast to the west-southwest at an hour before sunrise?  This morning they span over 166°.

On the 28th Venus rises as Saturn sets.  As this date approaches Saturn becomes more difficult to locate as it approaches the horizon.  The thicker atmosphere near the horizon dims Saturn’s brightness in the same way it makes the sun look orange and dimmer, when our central star is higher in the sky.  Venus’ brilliance allows us to see it lower in the sky.

MARS OPPOSITION 2022 SUMMARY

This morning, the moon is approaching Mars and Pleiades. The lunar orb, 57% illuminated, is over two-thirds of the way up in the southeast.  It is 12.1° to the right of the Red Planet and 14.2° to the right of the star cluster.

Through a binocular, Uranus is 2.1° to the left of the moon.  It appears as an aquamarine star.

Chart Caption – 2022, August 18: Uranus and the moon are in the same binocular field of view.

Tomorrow, the moon passes between Mars and the star cluster.  The gathering is visible through a binocular.  They do not appear this close again in the western hemisphere until 2058! Set an early alarm.  This is easy to see!

Chart Caption – 2022, August 18: Through a binocular, Mars and the Pleiades appear in the same field of view.

This morning through a binocular, Mars is 5.7° to the lower right of Alcyone, the brightest Pleiad.

Mars continues its eastward march through Taurus.  After it passes Alcyone – also known as Eta Tauri – in two mornings, it passes Aldebaran early next month.  Then it moves toward the horns of Taurus, Elnath and Zeta Tauri, beginning to retrograde on October 30.

Chart Caption – 2022, August 18: Venus is low in the east-northeast before sunrise.

Venus is low in the east-northeast, stepping quickly through the dim stars of Cancer.  It loses two to three minutes of rising time each morning.  Today it rises 90 minutes before daybreak.  It is slipping into bright morning twilight before its superior conjunction on the far side of the sun during early October, followed by an evening appearance with the other four bright planets near year’s end.

This morning Venus is over 15° to the lower left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins.

Chart Caption – 2022, August 18: Jupiter and Saturn are in the southwestern sky before sunrise.

Jupiter is the bright star that is halfway up in the south-southwest.  It is retrograding in Cetus, the Sea Monster.  The creature’s tail, Deneb Kaitos, is to the lower left of the bright planet.

As Jupiter slowly retrogrades it moves into the eastern edge of Pisces next month.

At this hour, Saturn is low in the west-southwest.  It is transitioning to the evening sky, now rising before sunset and setting before sunrise.

Do not confuse Saturn with Fomalhaut, the star that is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – as the planet, but to its left.

The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in Capricornus.  This ends during October.

Evening Sky

Thirty minutes after sundown, Mercury is less than 5° up in the west.  Dimming quickly and setting less than 30 minutes later, the speedy planet is having its worst evening visibility of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers.

Chart Caption – August Evenings: After the end of twilight, the Milky Way can be seen with the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair and Deneb.

Two hours after sunset, the Milky Way continues its summer display, without moonlight washing out the view.  The galaxy’s center is between Sagittarius and Scorpius, low in the south during summer’s evenings.  The disk of the galaxy can be traced upward and toward the east through the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair, and Deneb.  It extends toward the north-northeast horizon.

Photo Caption – The center of our Milky Way galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of obscuring dust and gas (NASA photo)

A dark lane of dust, known as the Great Rift, can be seen from the south through the Summer Triangle.  This seems to divide the Milky Way into two parts.  Dust impedes our view of interesting sightings beyond it.  Infrared and radio waves are able to penetrate the dust.  Special telescopes, such as the recently commissioned Webb Space Telescope and world-wide radio telescopes connected as a single receiver, can provide colorized maps of hidden wonders.

Photo Caption – Data from more than 1.8 billion stars have been used to create this map of the entire sky. Note the dark dust along the Milky Way. The northern hemisphere’s Great Rift begins near the center of the image and runs to the left. (ESA Photo)

On the image, the Milky Way is shown across the middle of the map.  The northern hemisphere sees the half on the left side of the image, while the southern hemisphere sees the right half.  The dust of the Great Rift is visible as dark wisps that block the more distant stars and celestial treasures.

The Clouds of Magellan, two small satellites of the Milky Way, are in the lower right part of the view.  They are visible from the southern hemisphere.

At this hour, Jupiter is low in the east, while Saturn is about 20° up in the east and over 35° to the lower left of Altair – the southern vertex of the Summer Triangle.

Mars follows Jupiter across the horizon over 90 minutes after the Jovian Giant rises.

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