August 27, 2022: Mars continues its eastward march through the bright stars in Taurus before sunrise. Jupiter and Saturn are visible after the end of evening twilight.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:11 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:32 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The moon is at its New phase this morning at 3:17 a.m. CDT. A very thin evening crescent is low in the western sky, but it is difficult to see. Look for it after sunset in two evenings.
Here is the planet forecast for today:
Mars continues to march eastward in Taurus. Look for it about two-thirds of the way up in the southeast about an hour before sunup. The planet is journeying to its opposition on December 7. Its daily advance is easily observed.
The Red Planet is about to pass between the Pleiades star cluster and Aldebaran. It moves eastward about 0.5° each morning. That’s about the apparent diameter of the full moon or the width of your pinky finger nail when your arm is extended.
This morning, Mars is 6.6° to the lower left of Alcyone, the brightest Pleiad. It passes 2.6° to the lower right of 37 Tauri (37 Tau on the chart). Use a binocular to see Mars with the dimmer starfield that is not visible to the unaided eye in regions with bright outdoor lighting.
During the next several mornings, Mars passes through a rich starfield that includes the Hyades star cluster that makes the head of Taurus, Aldebaran and other stars, such as Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau) and Kappa Tauri (κ Tau), both part of the Hyades. Choose any star and watch the planet move past it.
Here is a chart to plot the planet’s place with Taurus each night. It is a low-tech way to graph the planet’s motion, especially to show a child or teenager the persistence that is needed to make observations, a foundation of science.
Farther westward, bright Jupiter is that bright star that is less than halfway up in the southwest at this hour. It is retrograding in the dim stars of Cetus, the Sea Monster. The creature’s tail – Deneb Kaitos – is to the lower left of the Jovian Giant and about one-third of the way from the planet to the horizon.
Retrograde motion is an illusion when our line of sight to the planet and the background starfield shifts westward when Earth catches and passes between a distant world and the sun. Opposition, the middle of retrograde, occurs on September 26. Early next month, Jupiter appears in front of Pisces.
An hour earlier than this, about 5:10 a.m. CDT, Jupiter’s Red Spot is in the center of the planet as viewed through a telescope. The rapid rotation of the planet shows the spot to us for less than two hours at a stretch. The spot can be seen for about fifty minutes before and after its central passage.
Recently, a photograph from the newly-commissioned Webb Space Telescope was released showing the planet in infrared light. This is a better representation of Webb’s capabilities than the colorized and well-publicized “first light” photos. Notice that the striped zones and belts closely match with those on the planet that we see through a telescope as well as the Red Spot. The brighter areas show more infrared energy emerging from the planet. It has been well-known that the planet releases over two times more energy than it receives from the sun, largely visible through infrared.
Infrared is part of the spectrum of light that our eyes do not see, but we feel as heat. We see a campfire, but we feel its heat. In space, the infrared spectrum opens telescopes to see the temperatures of celestial objects. These colors can pass through dust clouds that are hidden from views through traditional telescopes.
The Webb telescope does not see colors in the way that we see them. The fantastic images made from infrared data have been colorized to give us a view that is familiar to us. The unprocessed images look more like this view of Jupiter.
Just above the east-northeast horizon, brilliant Venus appears low in the heavens. Wait another fifteen minutes to see the planet higher in the sky. The planet’s morning appearance is approaching its conclusion. This morning it rises 85 minutes before sunrise, 65 minutes later than its earliest rising interval compared to daybreak that occurred during mid-February.
This morning, look for Procyon, about 20° up in the east, and Sirius, over 10° up in the southeast.
Mercury reaches its evening greatest elongation today. The planet is dim and difficult to see.
An hour after sundown, Saturn is low in the southeast. An hour later, Jupiter is above the eastern horizon, over 45° to the lower left of the Ringed Wonder.
Saturn is retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near Deneb Algedi and Nashira. The planet’s westward journey is easily observed compared to this stellar pair.
Through a binocular watch the planet move away from Nashira toward Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). It reverses its westward direction during October, 0.5° from Iota.
The planet parade is slowly migrating to the evening sky. Mars rises over two hours after Jupiter appears in the eastern sky. Later in the year, Mercury and Venus join the three bright outer planets in another five-planet parade.
Planet parades of all five bright planets occur during a decade-long interval, centered on the great conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.