2022, October 26: Three Bright Planets Overnight, Evening Fomalhaut

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October 26, 2022:  Three bright planets – Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are visible overnight.  Fomalhaut is in the southeast after sunset during autumn evenings.

Chart Caption – 2022, October 26: Mars is above the Bull’s horns about an hour before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:16 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:53 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

Mars approaches its turn-around point in its eastward march in front of Taurus.  This morning the planet is high in the west-southwest above and east of the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri.

The Red Planet is about 60 million miles away.  Earth is slowly catching Mars, as we move faster on an orbital path that is closer to the sun.

Normally, Mars appears to move eastward compared to the distant stars. As Earth approaches, the line of sight, compared to the distant starfield, stops moving eastward and begins to move westward.  The illusion is that the planet is backing up or retrograding.  It seems to move westward through opposition (December 7th) until Earth is sufficiently beyond the planet.  Then the line of sight reverts to its eastward swing during January 2023.

MARS OPPOSITION 2022 SUMMARY

During November watch Mars appear to move westward, passing Zeta Tauri for a second conjunction on November 7th.  It passes between the horns on the 13th and 4.0° from Elnath on the 18th.  Earth and Mars are closest on the 30th, seven nights before its opposition.

Mercury is departing the morning sky, leaving Mars as the lone bright morning planet.  The speedy planet rises 46 minutes before daybreak, hiding in bright twilight.

Chart Caption – 2022, October 26: Arcturus is low in the east-northeast before sunrise.

When the sky is darker, Arcturus is easier to locate low in the east-northeast after its heliacal rising or first morning appearance.  At an hour before sunup, the bright star is nearly 7° above the horizon.  Find a place that has a clear view toward that direction.

 Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, October 26: Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast after sunset.

After its superior conjunction on the far side of the sun, Venus is slowly climbing into the evening sky, becoming the Evening Star next month.  It sets only six minutes after sundown tonight.

About an hour after sunset, bright Jupiter is in the east-southeast after sundown.  With Venus immersed in brilliant sunlight, the Jovian Giant is the brightest star in the sky tonight. To the unaided eye, the planets resemble stars – points of light in the night sky.

Jupiter is retrograding in front of a dim Pisces starfield.  Its westward trek cannot be seen against a dim sidereal background.

Meanwhile, Saturn’s motion can be observed against the background stars in eastern Capricornus.  The planet reverted to its eastern or direct trek two evenings ago.  It has not yet picked up its slow eastern speed.  It is still 3.7° to the upper right of Nashira.  During the next several days the eastward change is noticeable.

Look for Saturn about one-third of the way up in the south-southeast.  While not as bright as Jupiter, it outshines than most stars in the sky this evening.

The star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – is low in the southeast.  Visible during the evening from autumn through mid-winter.  This southerly star is the 17th brightest in the skies of Earth and over 25 light years away. 

During the night Jupiter is in the south before midnight while Saturn is in the southwest and Mars is low in the east-northeast.  The three bright outer planets are strung along the plane of the solar system, the ecliptic.  By tomorrow morning, Jupiter and Saturn are below the western horizon, leaving Saturn as the lone bright morning planet.

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