November 2, 2022: Spica is making its heliacal rising – its first morning appearance before sunrise in the east-southeast. After sundown, the gibbous moon nears Jupiter.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:24 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:44 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: 0:32 UT, 10:27 UT, 20:23. 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:
The star Spica is making its first morning appearance in the eastern sky. At forty-five minutes before sunup, the star is about 5° up in the east-southeast. Spica – meaning “the ear of corn” – is the brightest star in Virgo. It is distinctly blue-white, making it somewhat easier to find in the blush of morning twilight.
Spica is the 10th brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes. It is about 2,000 times brighter than the sun, shining from a distance of 250 light years.
Additionally, look for Arcturus to the upper left of Spica, over 15° up in the east-northeast. This topaz star made its first morning appearance last month.
For northern hemisphere sky watchers, Arcturus is still in the western sky after sundown. Its sets about two hours after the sun. Like Capella, Vega, Deneb, and the stars in their vicinity, Arcturus can be seen in the morning and the evening at times during the year. While appearing in the evening sky, Vega makes its first morning appearance approximately on the 19th.
Farther northward, familiar patterns like the Big and Little Dippers, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Draco do not set, depending on the latitude. They seem to slowly whirl around a spot near the North Star, Polaris, never setting.
A little earlier when the sky is slightly darker, find Taurus that makes the background for Mars. The pattern somewhat resembles its namesake. Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster make the head. The Pleiades rides on the animal’s back. The Bull is emerging from clouds, so the rest of the body is hiding there. This bull has very long horns, tipped by Elnath and Zeta Tauri.
This morning Mars, at one hour before daybreak, is 2.8° from Zeta. The planet is slowly retrograding, pass the southern horn on the 7th.
For those living in urban and suburban areas, a binocular may be needed to the dimmer stars. Outdoor lighting impacts what can be seen in the heavens above.
Mercury is racing into bright twilight on its way to the evening sky, joining Venus during December. This morning it rises only 20 minutes before the sun.
Venus is slowly moving into the evening sky. It sets about 10 minutes after the sun.
The bright gibbous moon, 69% illuminated, can be seen in the eastern sky, before sundown. As the sky darkens after sunset, the lunar orb is nearly one-third of the way up in the south-southeast.
In this bright moonlight, look for Saturn, nearly 15° to the upper right of the lunar orb. The Ringed Wonder is slowly moving eastward in Capricornus to the right of Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Jupiter is “that bright star” in the east-southeast. It is the brightest star in the sky with Venus immersed in bright evening twilight.
Jupiter is retrograding in front of a dim Pisces starfield. This continues until the 24th.
During the night the planets, moon, and stars seem to move westward. By about three hours after sundown, Jupiter is in the south, Saturn is in the southwest with the moon to its upper left, and Mars is in the east-northeast. The three bright outer planets are strung along the plane of the solar system.
By tomorrow morning, Mars remains in the western sky.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.