October 28, 2022: Mars is the lone bright planet in the morning sky. The star Antares – the heart of Scorpius – is near its last evening appearance of the year, known as its heliacal setting.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:50 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The Great Red Spot’s transit times, when it is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 1:19 UT, 11:14 UT, 21:10 UT. Convert time to your time zone. In the US, subtract four hours for EDT, five hours for CDT, and so on. Use a telescope to see the spot.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
After an overnight display of the three bright outer planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – the Red Planet is the lone bright planet in the sky this morning. Dim Uranus, hiding in the glare of outdoor lighting, is about one-third of the way up in the west, below the Pleiades star cluster.
Mars, though, is the spectacle of the season. It is putting on a celestial dance show above the horns of Taurus, Elnath and Zeta Tauri. This morning only Sirius is brighter.
The planet is two days away from turning retrograde – an illusion as Earth begins to pass by. The planet’s eastward march has slowed considerably in recent days. At a casual glance, it has been nearly in the same place compared to Zeta Tauri for multiple mornings. This morning, Mars is 2.6° from the southern horn and less than 60 million miles away from Earth.
After its best morning appearance of the year, Mercury is retreating into bright sunlight heading toward its superior conjunction on the far arc of its solar orbit and an entry into the evening sky.
Venus is slowly making its entry into the western sky after sundown as the Evening Star. It sets only seven minutes after sunset today.
The evening crescent moon, 15% illuminated, is low in the southwest after sundown. Look for it about 45 minutes after sunset, setting over 75 minutes later. It is best seen when it is higher in the sky, during mid-twilight.
The lunar night is not completely dark, but gently illuminated by the sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land. While we see a thin crescent moon, a sky watcher on the moon would see the home planet at a nearly full phase.
The star Antares – the heart of Scorpius – is 11.3° to the lower right of the lunar crescent and only about 5° above the horizon. In a few evenings, the star makes its last evening appearance, known as its heliacal setting. The star appears lower in the sky each evening and deeper into brighter twilight that is too bright to see the star without optical assistance. This last evening appearance depends greatly on weather conditions, such as clouds and haze at the horizon. The star disappears into bright sunlight, setting simultaneously on November 24th. On December 1, Antares is at conjunction with the sun during the daytime and makes its first morning appearance – heliacal rising – about the time of the winter solstice.
This evening the moon is a reasonable guide to find Antares, but the two are too far apart to see in the same binocular field of view.
Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the sky at this hour, but there’s no rush to see them. Allow the sky to darken some more. Jupiter is the brightest star in the sky. It is low in the east-southeast during the early evening hours.
Jupiter is retrograding in front of Pisces, a starfield too dim to easily track its place with the stars. Jupiter and Neptune tightly fit into the same binocular field of view. Appearing as a dim bluish star, the more-distant world is to the upper right of the Jovian Giant.
Saturn is about one-third of the way up in the south-southeast, appearing near Deneb Algedi and Nashira in eastern Capricornus. The constellation’s pattern resembles a stealth fighter, somewhat delta shaped. The accompanying chart shows a view from the country without the permanent glow of outdoor lighting.
Jupiter and Saturn appear farther westward each evening after sunset, from Earth’s revolution around the sun. The planetary pair is generally following the westward migration of the constellations. In a few weeks, Mars appears earlier in the east-northeast. By year’s end Mercury and Venus join the bright outer planets in another five-planet display after sunset.
Tonight, the three bright planets are hung across the ecliptic’s arc. Look between four and five hours after sunset, when Jupiter is about halfway up in the south. Mars is above the east-northeast horizon and Saturn in the southwest. By tomorrow’s morning twilight, Jupiter and Saturn are below the western horizon, leaving Mars high in the south-southwest.
December 31, 2022: Mercury begins to depart the evening sky, leaving four bright planets – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars on display for New Year’s Eve.Keep reading
December 30, 2022: The night’s brightest star, Sirius, is in the south at midnight as the year ends. The bright planet evening display continues as Mercury disappears into bright twilight.Keep reading
December 29, 2022: The evening planet display is ending as Mercury begins to retrograde and fade in brightness. Look for Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Moon, and Mars after sundown.Keep reading