November 7, 2022: Mars passes Zeta Tauri, the Bull’s southern horn. Jupiter and Saturn are visible after sundown. The moon readies for its eclipse in the morning.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:31 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:38 p.m. CST. 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: 9:35 UT, 19:31 UT; Nov. 8, 5:27 UT. Convert time to your time zone. In the US, subtract five hours for EST, six hours for CST, and so on. Use a telescope to see the spot.
Mars passes Zeta Tauri for the second of three conjunctions – during a triple conjunction sequence. These series of three conjunctions occur when a planet moves eastward passing a star or another planet. A second one occurs when the planet seems to retrograde. After the eastward motion resumes a third conjunction occurs. Triples can occur with dim stars or bright stars, but those with named stars, that are usually brighter, gain sky watchers’ attention.
The sky has several coordinate systems. One is based on the celestial equator – an imaginary circle in the sky above Earth’s imaginary equator. A second is framed on the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system. They have the same origin point, the vernal equinox, but the ecliptic system is inclined 23.5° to the equatorial system. In both systems, longitude is measured eastward.
A conjunction occurs when two planets share the same ecliptic longitude or a planet passes a star’s nearly fixed longitude. Many times, this occurs when the two objects are below the horizon for a particular location.
Depending on the source of the information and system referenced, conjunction dates can be different by a day, maybe two days. The articles here use the ecliptic system. The gaps are closest along the ecliptic for the moving planets. If the conjunction occurs when the planet and second object are below the horizon, the date is chosen when the two are closest for a location. For the precision used in these articles, the separations are essentially the same whether observed in the morning or the evening. Mars and Zeta share the same longitude before they rise in the central US. Mars is visible in the morning and earlier during the evening with the return of standard time.
The chart above shows the apparent motion of Mars compared to the distant stars of Taurus. The ecliptic is labelled with ecliptic longitude and latitude. Conjunctions with brighter stars are labelled, as well as Mars’ closest approach to Earth and the Mars opposition.
With Mars near opposition, it appears in the eastern evening sky and western morning sky. For this conjunction, the differences in the gap from Mars to the star are minimal from the morning until the evening.
Before sunrise, Mars is about halfway up in the western sky at one hour before sunrise. At this hour the moon is below the western horizon so that the sky is showing more stars without the whitewash of moonlight.
Mars is 3.0° to the upper right of Zeta and 5.1° to the left of Elnath. Aldebaran, the Hyades and Pleiades are below Mars.
In the evening Mars rises about two hours after sundown. The bright moon’s light blots out the dimmer stars of the constellation. Two hours later, the Red Planet is about 20° up in the east-northeast.
That bright moon, 99% illuminated, is nearly 30° to the upper right of Mars. A lunar eclipse’s best viewing occurs from 4:16 a.m. CST to 5:42 a.m. CST tomorrow morning.
At this hour, Mars is 3.0° to the upper left of Zeta Tauri, the Bull’s southern horn. It is 5.0° to the lower right of Elnath.
Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation, is over 15° to the upper right of Mars.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Find Mars with Zeta Tauri as described above.
At 45 minutes before sunup, Arcturus and Spica are in the eastern sky. They are higher each morning. Topaz Arcturus is over 20° up in the east. Sapphire Spica is nearly 10° up in the east-southeast.
Mercury is at its superior conjunction tomorrow, on the far arc of its orbit on the other side of the sun from Earth.
The bright planets are slowly migrating toward the western evening sky. Venus is east of the sun, setting only 13 minutes after nightfall.
The bright moon is nearing an eclipse in the morning. An hour after sunset, the lunar orb is about 15° up in the east.
Bright Jupiter, retrograding in front of a dim Pisces backdrop, is about one-third of the way up in the southeast. Its apparent westward motion ends in a few weeks.
The “tail of the sea monster,” Deneb Kaitos, is below the Jovian Giant and about 10° above the horizon.
Saturn is nearing the south cardinal point. It is moving eastward against Capricornus. Its eastward pace is the slowest of the five bright planets.
Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish,” is above the south-southeast horizon, to the lower left of Saturn, and higher than Deneb Kaitos.
As described in the introductory section, Mars rises about two hours after sunset. Two hours later, the three bright planets and the moon are nearly along an arc from east-northeast to the southwest.
At 11:27 p.m. CST, Jupiter’s red spot is visible in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. The planet is over one-third of the way up in the southwest for sky watchers in the central US, higher for those westward.
Set an early alarm for tomorrow morning’s lunar eclipse.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.