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.
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by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:31 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:00 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
In Chicago, the sunsets at 7 p.m., daylight time. The sun does not set this late again until March 18, 2023, 184 days into the future.
For night owls, the three-planet display that is accented by the moon continues overnight. About five hours before sunrise, around 1:30 a.m. CDT in Chicago, Mars is high enough in the eastern sky and Saturn is above the southwestern horizon to be easily located. Jupiter is in the southern sky. The moon, 75% illuminated, is over 20° to the upper right of Mars.
By an hour before sunrise, Mars and the moon are high in the south. In this moonlight, use a binocular to locate the two bright star clusters – Pleiades and Hyades.
Look at the moon through the binocular. Place the lunar orb to the upper left of the field of view. Aquamarine Uranus is to the lower right. The distant world appears as a bluish star through the binocular. Move the binocular so that the moon is outside the field to see the planet easier without the bright moonlight.
At this hour, Jupiter is low in the west-southwest. It is still the brightest star, because Venus does not rise until 52 minutes before daybreak. The Morning Star is low in the east 25 minutes later as it slips into bright morning twilight.
The planet parade is slowly moving toward the evening sky. Two planets are visible as the sky darkens, followed by the moon and Mars. Venus joins the bright outer planets later in the year. Near year’s end, a five-planet exhibition is visible after sunset, in a mixed order – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.
An hour after sunset, Saturn and bright Jupiter are in the eastern sky. Saturn is above the southeast horizon with the stars of Capricornus. It is over a month after its opposition where Earth is between the Ringed Wonder and the sun.
With earlier sunsets, find your local astronomy club or ask your neighborhood sky watcher to show you Saturn through their telescope. The view of this planet is memorable.
Bright Jupiter is above the eastern horizon and the brightest star in the sky at this hour.
The moon rises nearly four hours after sunset, followed by Mars about 50 minutes later. During the late-night hours, the three bright planets and the moon again stretch across the sky.