October 4, 2022: Mars slows its eastward march through Taurus, near Zeta Tauri. After sundown, the moon approaches evening planets, Saturn and Jupiter.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:51 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:27 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Mars is slowing its eastward march through Taurus. It begins to retrograde later this month. Our world is quickly catching the planet. Earth passes between Mars and the sun on December 7. Earth is closest to the Red Planet on November 30.
The planet first appears above the east-northeast horizon about three and a half hours after sundown. At an hour before sunrise this morning, it is high in the southern sky. It is approaching the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri.
The horns are too far apart for them to appear in the same binocular field with the planet. This morning, Mars is 3.9° from Zeta. The Crab Nebula (M1 on the chart), an exploded star that occurred in 1054, is in the same binocular field as Mars and the southern horn. On the 13th, Mars, the Crab, and Zeta appear along a short line, 2.4° long. Watch Mars continue its eastward trek.
In three mornings, Mars passes Elnath, the northern horn, for the first of three times during this appearance of Mars. The second occurs after the planet begins its retrograde on October 30.
At this hour, Jupiter is very low in the west. Most planets are not visible at this height above the horizon, but Jupiter can be seen if the horizon is clear in that direction.
Mercury is making is best morning appearance of the year. By 45 minutes before sunrise, the speedy planet is over 7° above the eastern horizon. It is brighter than Regulus, the heart of Leo, that is about 25° to the planet’s upper right, and Denebola – the lion’s tail – about 12° to its upper left. It quickly brightens during the next few mornings. This morning a binocular might be needed to initially find the planet.
Venus is sliding into bright sunlight. Finding it is a challenge before sunrise. It passes behind the sun on the 22nd. Then it slowly climbs into the evening sky, appearing with the other four bright planets after sunset near year’s end.
This evening, the moon is approaching the bright evening planets, Saturn and Jupiter. As the sky darkens, the gibbous moon, 72% illuminated, is in the south-southeast. Saturn is over 11° to the upper left of the lunar orb.
The Ringed Wonder is nearly one-third of the way up in the sky. Tomorrow evening, the planet is over 6° to the upper right of the moon.
Bright Jupiter is farther eastward, about 15° up in the east-southeast. At this hour, it is the brightest star in the sky.
Use a binocular to locate Callisto, one of Jupiter’s four largest moons, to the lower left of the Jovian Giant. Depending on the quality of the binocular, the other three moons might be visible. A spotting scope or small telescope helps to see them easier. This evening, from Callisto toward the planet, Europa and Ganymede are visible. Io is on the west side of the planet, seemingly at the same distance as Ganymede is placed eastward. Use the spotting scope or binocular each clear evening to watch the moons’ changing places in their orbital paths around their planet.
If you have a clear horizon toward the southeast, Fomalhaut – the mouth of the southern fish – is about 5° above the horizon during the early evening hours.
- 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.