November 1, 2022: Before sunrise, bright Mars is high in the southwest above the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri. During the evening, the slightly gibbous moon is near Saturn.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:23 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:45 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The moon is at its First Quarter phase at 1:37 a.m. CDT.
The Great Red Spot’s transit times, when it is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 4:40UT, 14:36 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:
Mars is gently retrograding above the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri – in the west-southwest before sunrise. Find it about two-thirds of the way up in the sky at one hour before sunrise. Mars is nearly as bright as Sirius. The planet is slowly picking up westward speed.
Retrograde motion is an illusion that occurs when our faster moving planet catches up and moves between a slower-moving outer planet and the sun. For Mars, this occurs on December 7th, known as opposition.
As Earth begins to cut between the planet and the sun, the line of sight from Earth to Mars, that normally moves eastward in the distant starfield, begins to move westward.
As the Red Planet moves westward, it passes Zeta Tauri for a second conjunction on the 7th. A week later it moves between Zeta and Elnath, then passing the latter star on the 18th. Earth and Mars are closest at month’s end, when it is 50.5 million miles away.
Mars can be closer. In 2018, the planet was 41% closer to Earth than it is later this month. During the next four oppositions (January 12, 2025, February 19, 2027, March 29, 2029, and May 11, 2031) Mars is farther away from Earth than this year.
The Red Planet’s orbit is not a perfect circle, but an ellipse. Oppositions are occurring when Mars is near its farthest point from the sun, known as aphelion.
Mars remains the lone bright planet visible at this hour. Mercury, off its best morning appearance of the year, is retreating into bright sunlight to reach its superior conjunction at the far arc of its orbital path in a week. This morning it rises only 24 minutes before the sun.
The five bright planets are shifting toward early evening appearances at year’s end.
Venus is migrating into the evening sky after its superior conjunction last month. This evening it sets only nine minutes after the sun. It is still in bright twilight.
The slightly gibbous moon, 58% illuminated is in the south-southeast as night falls. The lunar orb is 4.9° below Saturn.
The Ringed Wonder is slowly moving eastward in front of eastern Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Because of the moon’s proximity, a binocular may be needed to see the stars.
Bright Jupiter is in the east-southeast after sundown. It continues to retrograde in front of a dim Pisces starfield. The planet’s retrograde ends on the 24th.
Jupiter and Neptune are in the same binocular field of view, although on opposite sides of the field. Bluish Neptune appears as a dim star.
This evening about four hours after sunset, bright Jupiter is in the southern sky. The moon and Saturn are in the southwest, while Mars is in the east-northeast. Mars and Saturn are about the same altitude – height above their respective horizons. By tomorrow morning, Jupiter, the moon, and Saturn are below the western horizon, leaving Mars as the single bright planet in the evening sky.
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