August 30, 2022: Mars passes between the Pleiades and Aldebaran this morning. Bright Jupiter is in the southwest before daybreak. A thin evening crescent is near Spica.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:29 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here is the planet forecast for today:
Step outside about an hour before sunrise. Look high in the southeastern sky. Two reddish stars are in the same vicinity. The brighter one is Mars. The second star is Aldebaran.
The Pleiades star cluster is to the upper right of Mars and Aldebaran. The stars resemble a tiny dipper.
This morning the Red Planet passes between the Pleiades and Aldebaran – 7.6° to the lower left of Alcyone, the cluster’s brightest star – and 6.0° to the upper right of Aldebaran.
Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster make a sideways “V” or arrow head that outlines the Bull’s head. The tips of the horns are marked by Elnath and Zeta Tauri. The Pleiades ride on the animal’s back.
Mars continues its eastward March, passing Aldebaran on September 7th. It passes between the horns on October 17th and reverses it eastward direction on October 30.
Watch its eastward trek. Mars moves eastward at about 0.5° each day for the next several weeks. Then it seems to slow before it begins to retrograde.
Mars’ daily eastward step is easy to see. The width of your pinky fingernail at arm’s length is about the distance in the sky the planet moves from one morning to the next.
Print this star map to mark the daily progress of Mars compared to the background stars. The planet appears in this field of view through March 2023.
Through a telescope, the planet is a tiny orange globe. Depending on the clarity of the sky and the telescope’s magnification, darker surface features may be visible. Winter began in the planet’s northern hemisphere over a month ago. The northern hemisphere is leaning away from Earth.
Through a binocular, watch Mars stars in the Hyades cluster and Aldebaran.
Farther westward, Jupiter is the bright star that is less than halfway up in the southwest. It is retrograding in Cetus, moving westward into the boundaries of Pisces in a few days. This retrograde or apparent backward motion is an illusion from our faster-moving planet catching up and passing the distant worlds. Mercury and Venus retrograde as they pass between Earth and the sun, moving from the evening sky to visibility before daybreak.
The background constellation represents a sea monster. Its tail – Deneb Kaitos – is to the lower left of Jupiter, less than halfway from the planet to the horizon.
Jupiter rises about two hours after sundown. During the night it appears farther west and is located here in the southwest as morning twilight reaches for the approaching dawn.
For sky watchers with a telescope, look for Jupiter’s Great Red Spot in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 2:40 a.m. CDT. The spot is visible 50 minutes before and after the central transit time from the planet’s rapid rotation. Set an early alarm.
Becoming more difficult to see, brilliant Venus is about 5° up in the east-northeast at 45 minutes before sunrise. The planet is slowly slipping toward its solar conjunction during late October. This morning it rises 75 minutes before sunrise. It loses two to three minutes of rising time each morning.
When looking for Venus, spot Procyon that is about 20° above the east-southeast horizon. The star’s name means “before the dog,” because it rises less than 30 minutes before the Dog Sar, Sirius, at the mid-northern latitudes. This morning, the night’s brightest star is to the lower right of Procyon and about 15° above the southeast horizon.
Forty-five minutes after sunset, the evening crescent moon, 14% illuminated, is low in the west-southwest. It is 4.6° to the upper right of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Watch the moon appear higher in the western sky from evening to evening.
Again this evening, look for earthshine – reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land – on the night portion of the moon. This effect decreases as the moon waxes. The Earth’s illuminated side that faces the moon is waning producing less effect in the lunar night.
At this hour, Saturn is low in the southeast. Wait until the sky is darker to see it higher and Jupiter low in the east. This occurs about two hours after sunset, after the end of evening twilight, when Saturn is less than one-third of the way up in the southeastern sky.
Saturn is retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. The Ringed Wonder retrogrades until late October.
Through a binocular spot the star Iota Capricorni (ι Cap) on the chart. Before Saturn appears to change direction, it moves to about 0.5° of the star. Make nightly observations to see it open a gap with Nashira and close the span to Iota.
At this hour, Jupiter is to the lower left of Saturn and about 10° up in the east. Find a clear horizon in that direction. Jupiter is easy to spot at that altitude.
During the night, Saturn appears farther westward, passing across the south horizon around midnight. By tomorrow morning Saturn sets in the west-southwest about 85 minutes before sunrise and about 10 minutes before Venus rises.
January 6, 2023: The bright Full moon appears near Castor and Pollux all night. Four bright planets – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars – span the sky after sundown.Keep reading
January 5, 2023: The bright moon can be seen before sunrise and after sunset. Four bright planets are strung across the sky from southwest to east after sundown. Orion’s Rigel rises at sundown.Keep reading