October 22, 2022: Venus is at superior conjunction today, hiding in the sun’s glaring light. An array of bright planets is visible during nighttime hours along with a morning crescent moon.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:11 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:59 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 1:20 a.m. CDT. The planet’s rapid rotation presents the spot to Earth for about 100 minutes, turning the spot into our view, placing it at the center of the planet, and then taking it to the opposite edge from where it first appeared.
Venus’ morning appearance ends today with its superior conjunction on the far side of the sun. The planet is nearly 160 million miles away. Venus is not directly behind the sun because its orbit is slightly tilted compared to the Earth-sun plane, known as the ecliptic. At 4:17 p.m. CDT, the planet is about 1.1° above the central star.
Venus begins a slow entry into the evening sky. By November 28th, it sets at Civil Twilight, setting only 30 minutes after sundown. For enthusiastic sky watchers, the planet can be seen around mid-November above the western horizon during bright evening twilight.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 10% illuminated, is about 20° up in the east-southeast. It is 8.5° to the lower right of Denebola, the Lion’s tail.
Leo’s brighter stars extend over 30° from west to east. The head is higher in the sky, outlined by several stars that make a backwards question mark or a sickle, a farmer’s cutting tool. Regulus – meaning “the prince” – is at the bottom of the shape, dotting the animal’s heart. The haunches and tail are outlined by a triangle.
The moon shows earthshine, reflected from a nearly full earth in the lunar sky. Capture the scene with a tripod-mounted camera and exposures ranging up to a few seconds.
Mars is high in the southwest at this hour, above the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri. The planet’s eastward march has slowed considerably. The planet seems to reverse its direction on the 30th and appears to move backwards or retrograde.
Earth passes between Mars and the sun on December 7th. This opposition is not the closest, but with Mars high in the sky, it puts on a marvelous display.
At forty minutes before sunrise, Mercury is low in the east to the right of the east cardinal point. It is bright. To locate it, first find the crescent moon, nearly 25° to the upper right of the speedy planet. Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern half of the sky, is nearly 7° up in the east-northeast and about 30° to the upper left of Mercury. A cloudless, unobstructed horizon is needed to see Mercury. A binocular is helpful for the initial identification of the planet.
Normally, when a planet or bright star is at this altitude – height above the horizon – the “last call” to see it is normally made when the altitude is below 5°. Mercury is bright enough to be seen at this location. Tomorrow is likely the last time to see the planet easily during this morning appearance. The moon is still outside the same binocular field, but it may help with the planet’s location.
Bright Jupiter and Saturn continue to reign in the southeastern sky after sunset. Jupiter is that bright star low in the east-southeast as night falls. The Jovian Giant is highly reflective and shines as the brightest “star” in the sky this evening.
The planet is retrograding in front of Pisces’ dim stars.
Jupiter is in the south about five hours after sundown and before midnight. At that hour, Mars is in the east-southeast and Saturn is in the southwest – a planetary platter spanning the sky. Add in dim Uranus and Neptune and five planets are along that arc.
Earlier during the evening, Saturn is about one-third of the way up in the south-southeast as night falls. Its retrograde ends tomorrow evening to the west of Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Retrograde is an illusion when our faster moving planet, moving on an imaginary track closer to the sun than the outer planets, passes between the distant worlds and the sun. The planets appear to back up as we pass.
Look for Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – about 10° up in the southeast. With the season a month into its session, the star’s location is firm notice that autumn is in full swing.
- 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.
- 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.