October 17, 2022: Mars makes its first pass between the Bull’s horns this morning. Spica is at conjunction with the sun. It reappears in the morning sky next month.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:05 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:06 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The length of daylight passes through eleven hours today. From the mid-northern latitudes, daylight is quickly shrinking. Since the month’s start, daylight has shortened 44 minutes. By Halloween another 37 minutes is lost.
Today, the star Spica is in conjunction with the sun. The brightest star in Virgo is 2.0° south of the ecliptic, although Regulus – in Leo – is closer.
Virgo’s stars are already visible in the morning sky, forming a background for Mercury.
Spica becomes visible early next month.
With Spica’s conjunction, Arcturus, the brightest star in Boötes, is beginning to appear in the east-northeast before sunrise. Follow the Big Dipper’s curved handle to the northeast where Arcturus appears higher each morning. The dipper is standing on its handle in the northeast during early morning twilight.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Mars splits the Bull’s horns this morning. This is the first time through the region during this appearance of Mars. Find it over two-thirds of the way up in the sky above the southwest horizon. It is the brightest of the three reddish stars in the region, that include Betelgeuse and Aldebaran.
The Red Planet is 2.2° from Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau on the chart) and 5.7° from Elnath (β Tau). After Mars begins to retrograde, it passes between the horns again on November 13th and for a third time on March 11, 2023.
The Last Quarter moon is high in the south-southeast. (The moon is officially at the phase at 12:15 p.m. CDT). It is near the Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor, 2.9° to the lower right of the former and 5.5° to the lower right of the latter.
Mercury continues to brighten as its leaves its best morning appearance of the year. It is lower each morning, but growing in visual intensity, now brighter than Mars. Find it very low in the eastern sky. Use a binocular to initially locate it, looking like a bright star in the growing twilight as dawn approaches.
As Arcturus is beginning to appear in the morning sky before sunrise, the star is far enough north so that it still appears in the western sky after sunset. The topaz star is about 10° up in the west-northwest one hour after sunset. The star is part of Boötes, resembling a kite.
Like other stars, such as Vega, Deneb, and Capella, that are farther northward, they begin to appear in the morning sky before they leave the evening sky. In contrast, stars farther south for Northern Hemisphere sky watchers, like Spica, Regulus, Sirius, and Betelgeuse, disappear in the western sky after sunset, then many days later reappear in the morning before sunrise, appearing farther westward and higher in the sky each day.
Farther eastward, bright Jupiter is low in the east-southeast. It is nearly 10 times brighter than Arcturus and the brightest star in the sky.
The Jovian Giant is retrograding against Pisces’ dim stars. The illusion continues until next month. In comparison, Saturn’s retrograde ends in less than a week.
The Ringed Wonder, dimmer than Jupiter and Arcturus, is about one-third of the way up in the south-southeast. It is in front of eastern Capricornus and the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Through a binocular the planet is nearing Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). Saturn returns to its eastward trek before it reaches Iota. Tonight, the planet is 0.6° from the star. After it reverts to its direct motion, Saturn heads toward Nashira and Deneb Algedi. Watch it close the gaps to those stars during the next several weeks.
During the night Jupiter and Saturn appear farther westward. Saturn is south about two hours after sunset, followed by Jupiter about five hours after sundown.
As the midnight hour approaches, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are strung across the sky from the east to southwest.
These bright outer planets are migrating westward and all three appear after sunset during December. Later in that month, Venus and Mercury join them.
- 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.
- 2023, October 16-22: Celestial Events for the WeekOctober 16-22, 2023: The moon returns to the evening sky. Venus steps eastward in front of Leo, and a meteor shower is visible.
- 2023, October 15: Three Bright PlanetsOctober 15, 2023: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise. Saturn is above the southeast horizon after sundown.
- 2023, October 14: Solar Eclipse, Morning PlanetsOctober 14, 2023: A solar eclipse is visible across the western hemisphere. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise.
- 2023, October 13: Moon’s Last Glimpse, Bright Morning PlanetsOctober 13, 2023: Before tomorrow’s eclipse, see a razor-thin moon before sunrise. Venus and Jupiter shine brightly during morning twilight.