October 19, 2022: The morning crescent moon is above Leo in the eastern sky during morning twilight. Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars parade across the sky during the night.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:08 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:03 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY
An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 33% illuminated, is in the east-southeastern sky. It is above Leo, the Lion.
The lion’s head resembles a backwards question mark or a farmer’s sickle. Its nickname is “The Sickle of Leo.” The brightest star Regulus – meaning “the prince” – is about 15° below the lunar crescent and nearly halfway up in the sky.
The Lion’s haunches are outlined by a triangle with the tail, Denebola, at the shape’s eastern corner.
Notice that Regulus and Denebola are blue-white in color indicating that they are hotter than our sun. Unlike the artistic interpretation of color, in the universe, hotter objects are bluer in color, while cooler ones are redder.
This morning the moon is showing earthshine – reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds and land. While we see a thinning crescent moon, an astronaut on the moon would see a growing gibbous Earth, beaming its reflected sunlight to the lunarscape.
Farther westward, Mars is high in the southwest, above the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri. The planet’s eastward march is slowing for the planet to appear to reverse its course and head westward, beginning in 11 nights, for nearly three months.
Unlike the temperature estimations noted above, reddish Mars’ color does not indicate its temperature. Mars is a planet that appears red by reflecting sunlight in the same way a shirt appears red or blue.
The star Aldebaran, over 15° to the lower right of Mars, and Betelgeuse, over 16° to the planet’s lower left, are stars and their somewhat ruby colors indicates they are not as hot as the sun.
Over 20 minutes later, Mercury and Arcturus are about the same altitudes – height above the horizon in the eastern sky. The speedy planet is slipping back into bright sunlight after is best morning appearance of the year.
Mercury is brighter than Mars, but the thicker atmosphere toward the horizon and the glow of morning twilight reduces its visual intensity. The planet is in the eastern sky, to the south of the east cardinal point, and about 5° up, while Arcturus is low in the east-northeast at about the same altitude.
The star is making its first morning appearance or its heliacal rising. It is still in the western evening sky after sunset. With a location far to the north, it appears in the morning sky before it leaves our evening view. Each morning Arcturus appears higher in the sky while Mercury disappears into brighter sunlight.
Venus is only three days from its superior conjunction and a slow entry into the western sky after sundown as the Evening Star.
Jupiter is that “bright star” in the east-southeast after sunset. About a month after its opposition with the sun, when Earth is between the planet and the sun, the Jovian Giant is well-up in the sky after sundown. It is the brightest star in the sky this evening with Venus nearing its superior conjunction.
It is retrograding in front of Pisces’ dim stars. This continues for another month.
Farther westward, Saturn is about one-third of the way up in the south-southeast. Its retrograde against the stars in eastern Capricornus ends in four evenings. For many sky watchers, the planet is visible with Deneb Algedi and Nashira. It is nearing Iota, stopping about 0.5° from the star, before beginning its direct motion again.
These motions are from the relative motion of Earth with the planets. Normally, the line of sight from Earth to the planet moves eastward compared to the distant star field. As Earth begins to pass between the planet and the sun, the line of sight reverses and seems to move westward, while the planets do not stop or move backwards. After Earth passes inside the planet, the retrograde stops and the line of sight moves eastward again.
Saturn leads the way westward during the night. It is in the south about two-and-a-half hours after sunset. Jupiter is south about five hours after sunset, before midnight. At that time, Saturn is in the southwest, while Mars is in the east. This three-planet display is visible earlier during the evening as the season progresses.
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