September 25, 2022: Mars continues its eastward march with Taurus as the planet nears the Bull’s horns. One evening before opposition, Jupiter is in the eastern sky after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:41 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:43 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
During the next two days, daylight becomes less than 12 hours. Today, it is two minutes longer at Chicago’s latitude. Tomorrow it is one minute less. The length continues to decrease until late December.
The 24-hour day circuit is largely composed of daylight and nighttime. Twilight occurs after sunrise and before sunrise until the sun is 18° below the horizon. Then darkness occurs. Daylight, twilight, and darkness make the complete 24 hours.
Darkness – the time between the end of evening twilight and the beginning of morning twilight – is longer than daytime beginning on Halloween in Chicago and exceeds it until February 11, 2023.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Venus is sliding quickly into bright morning twilight, yet still visible very low in the eastern sky at about 25 minutes before sunrise. Its opposition with Jupiter occurs on October 1st. On that morning the two planets appear in opposite directions, 180° apart. Jupiter sets and Venus rises. What is the last day you can find them together, Venus in the east and Jupiter in the west?
Overnight, three bright planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are strung across the sky. This occurs after midnight, when Mars has cleared the horizon in the eastern sky, but Saturn can be found low in the west-southwest.
Saturn sets over three hours before sunrise, leaving Jupiter and Mars in the sky at about an hour before sunrise.
The Jovian Giant is low in the west-southwest at this time.
For sky watchers with telescopes, at about 4 a.m. CDT, the planet’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. The spot is swept quickly across the view and is visible for about 50 minutes before and after the prime viewing time.
Callisto, one of Jupiter’s largest moons, is near its greatest separation from the planet, to the west. It might be visible through a binocular, if held steadily. This morning the four largest moons are visible, two to the east and two to the west. Minimally, a spotting scope is needed to see those satellites near Jupiter.
At this hour, Mars continues its eastward march through Taurus. The Red Planet is high in the south between the Bull’s head – outlined by Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster – and the horns, dotted by Elnath and Zeta Tauri.
This morning, Mars nearly makes an equilateral triangle with Zeta and Elnath. The planet and Zeta are on opposite sides of a binocular field this morning. Mars passes by on October 22, five days after it moves between the horns.
One evening before its opposition, Jupiter rises a few minutes after sundown and appears low in the eastern sky as night falls. The planet is retrograding in Pisces and opposition is at the mid-point of the illusion of westward motion.
At opposition, the planet rises in the eastern sky at sunset; appears in the south near midnight; and sets in the west at sunrise. It is closest to Earth and at its brightest.
Saturn is less than one-third of the way up in the southeast. It was at opposition over a month ago and it continues to retrograde near Deneb Algedi and Nashira, in eastern Capricornus.
Through a binocular, the planet is approaching Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). This evening, the Ringed Wonder is 1.2° to the lower left of the star. On October 23rd, Saturn resumes its eastward motion, 0.5° to the east of Iota. There’s still some gap to close.
Before the weather chills too much, find the local astronomy club or convince the neighborhood sky watcher to see Saturn through a telescope. Views of the planet are fantastic and memorable.
February 20, 2023: Hercules is visible before sunrise in the eastern sky. Venus moves to within 10° of Jupiter after sundown, while Mars marches eastward against Taurus.Keep reading
February 29, 2023: Leo is in the western sky before sunrise, taking all night to go from east to west. After sundown, Evening Star Venus continues to approach bright Jupiter.Keep reading
February 18, 2023: The predawn sky has the brightest stars in the celestial northern hemisphere. After sundown, Venus approaches Jupiter and Mars marches eastward with Taurus.Keep reading