October 27, 2022: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are hung across the sky around midnight. After sundown, the crescent moon is near Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:51 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Overnight, the bright outer planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible along an arc from the east-northeast to the southwest. About four-and-a-half hours after sunset, before midnight local time, bright Jupiter is about halfway up in the southern sky. No other star rivals the planet’s brightness. At this hour, Saturn is less than one-third of the way up in the southwest, while Mars is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – in the east-northeast.
As morning twilight begins, Saturn and Jupiter are below the western horizon, leaving Mars high in the west-southwest.
During early morning hours, after midnight CDT, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. The planet’s rapid rotation shows the planet to sky watchers about 50 minutes before or after the prime time at 12:30 a.m. CDT.
The spot is visible about every 10 hours, making the long-lived “storm” visible two to three times a day for sky watchers across the globe. The early morning time is highlighted here because Jupiter is near its highest point in the sky in the western hemisphere, where atmospheric features are easily observed. In this case a telescope is required to see the atmospheric disturbance. (For sky watchers, elsewhere the red spot is visible at about 15:30 UT. This is 10:30 a.m. CDT, clearly when Jupiter is below the horizon in the Americas.)
Here is today’s planet forecast:
SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY
Mars nearly seems lost in a symphony of bright stars in the southwestern sky before sunrise. Step outside about one hour before sunup. Famous Orion is about halfway up in the southwest. The three belt stars – nearly equally spaced – are easy to find with reddish Betelgeuse above them and bluish Rigel to their lower right.
Orion’s belt can be used as a pointer to the lower left and to the upper right. Sirius is to the lower left, while the Pleiades star cluster is in the other direction. The stellar bunch is on the back of the Bull, looking like it is leading the bright stars westward.
The head of Taurus is outlined by the Hyades star cluster and reddish Aldebaran that dots an eye. This cluster and bright reddish star make a letter “V.” The horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri – are above the letter.
Mars is above or east of the horns. It is the third red “star” in this part of the sun, but it is noticeably brighter than Betelgeuse and Aldebaran. Only Sirius is brighter in this part of the sky. The Red Planet’s eastern march has slowed considerably. Earth is overtaking the planet and the line of sight from Earth to Mars begins to shift westward or retrograde in three evenings. Mars seems to move westward between the horns on November 13th.
Bright Capella is to the upper right of Mars. The “little she-goat” star is the fourth brightest star that is visible from the mid-northern latitudes, following Sirius, Arcturus, and Vega.
The Gemini Twins – Castor and Pollux are to the upper left and east of Mars and above Orion.
Finally, Procyon – meaning “before the dog” – is to the lower left of the Twins and above Sirius. From Chicago’s latitude Procyon rises around 20 minutes before the Dog Star, Sirius, rises.
Mars and these constellations shift farther westward during the season. They soon appear in the eastern sky earlier during the evening. Mars rises at sunset at its opposition on December 7th.
This morning, Mercury rises only 42 minutes before sunrise while hiding in bright morning twilight. It reaches superior conjunction on the far arc of its orbit in over a week.
Venus is beginning a slow climb into the morning sky. It sets only seven minutes after the sun. It is only gaining about one minute of setting time after the sun every two days. It’s too early to begin looking for the Evening Star.
About forty-five minutes after sundown, find a clear horizon toward the southwest. The crescent moon – 8% illuminated – is 5° above the horizon. It is 3.4° to the right of Antares – the heart of Scorpius.
The moon is entering its evening lunar cycle of a waxing moon. It appears higher in the sky each evening and the crescent is thicker. For the next few evenings look for earthshine on the moon’s night portion.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is low in the east-southeast. Now about a month after its close opposition, the Jovian Giant is retrograding in front of a dim Pisces starfield. Wait a little longer to look for it when the sky is darker. There’s no rush, this planet is in the sky until the early morning hours.
Saturn is to the upper right of Jupiter, in the south-southeast, about one-third of the way up in the sky. Its retrograde in front eastern Capricornus ended a few evenings ago. The planet is to the right (west) of Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Through a binocular, Jupiter and Neptune are in the same field of view. They appear in opposite sites of the field until early December. On November 3rd, the moon fits into the field with the planets.
A telescope is needed to see Neptune’s globe. Through the binocular, the planet appears as a dimmer bluish star. With that binocular look for Jupiter’s four largest satellites, appearing as dimmer stars near the solar system’s largest world.
Neptune’s infrared image with its rings and moons was recently released from the Webb Space Telescope. This is the best view of the planet’s system since Voyager 2 made its grand tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, passing this last gas planet in 1989 – twelve years after it was launched.
Turning the binocular toward Saturn, the two stars named previously show with Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart). The Ringed Wonder is 0.6° from Iota. During the next several days, watch the planet open a gap with Iota, moving in the general direction of Nashira and Deneb Algedi.
As noted above, Jupiter and Saturn are part of the overnight display of bright planets that span the sky near the midnight hours, when Mars joins them in the eastern sky.
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