October 15, 2022: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible when the planet is high in the sky overnight. Follow the moon and Bright Outer Planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – during the night.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:03 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:09 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
For night owls, late partiers, or very early risers, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 12:34 a.m. CDT. At this time, the planet is about halfway up in the south-southwest.
The planet’s rapid rotation whips the long-lived “storm” into view about 50 minutes before the central passage and it disappears with the planet’s rotation about 50 minutes after the best view.
A modest telescope is needed to see this earth-sized disturbance.
About an hour before daybreak, the bright moon, 71% illuminated, is high in the southwest, 4.7° to the upper left of Mars.
The Red Planet’s eastward trek is slowly. Mars retrograde begins on October 30. This morning it is below a line that connects the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri. It passes between them in two mornings.
Fifteen minutes later, brighter than Mars and beginning to exit its morning residency, Mercury is low in the east at 45 minutes before sunrise, although its visual intensity is dimmed by its low altitude as it shines through a thicker atmosphere and the blush of mid-twilight.
A clear view to the horizon is needed as the planet is less than 7° above the horizon, easily blocked by the neighborhood trees, houses, or buildings.
With the brightness, the planet can be found with a binocular as late as 30 minutes before sunup when it is higher in the sky. Find a balance between seeing it lower in the sky when twilight is dimmer or catching a view of it later at a higher altitude and brighter twilight.
The planet rises 83 minutes before sunup. It loses two to three minutes of rising time each morning, appearing lower until it disappears into the sun’s luminescence.
Venus is moving toward it solar conjunction in a week and its reappearance as an Evening Star in the west after sundown.
The Bright Outer Planets (BOPs) – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are slowly migrating westward for a five-planet display at the end of the year, when they are joined by Venus and Mercury.
As the sky darkens, bright Jupiter is about 20° up in the east-southeast. It is retrograding in front of Pisces’ dim stars. Attempt to spot up to four of its largest moons with a binocular. They are easily visible through a spotting scope or small telescope. Larger scopes show the planet’s cloud bands.
Jupiter is the brightest star in the sky with Venus hidden in the sun’s great luminosity before sunrise.
Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than most stars in tonight’s sky, is about one-third of the way up in the south-southeast. The Ringed Wonder is best viewed through a telescope. The view is memorable of its bright rings encircling a planet with muted cloud bands.
Like, Jupiter, Saturn is retrograding. Saturn’s movement is easier to see because it is near Deneb Algedi and Nashira, both easy to spot in a darker sky or through a binocular from urban or suburban setings. The stars in part of eastern Capricornus.
Through a binocular Saturn is nearing Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). Saturn appears to reverse its direction in eight days, inching toward Iota until then. This evening the gap is 0.6°.
During the night, the third BOP – Mars – appears in the east-northeast about three hours after sunset. The moon follows an hour later. Around midnight, the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are strung across the sky from east-northeast to the southwest. This is a grand overnight display.
- 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.