November 12, 2022: See the bright outer planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The moon is east of Mars near the Gemini Twins. The Great Red Spot makes an appearance for the Americas.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:37 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:33 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: 8:44 UT, 18:39 UT, Nov. 13, 4:35 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.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
After yesterday’s stunning view of the moon, Mars, and Elnath – the northern horn of Taurus – the moon is farther eastward along the plane of the solar system.
Step outside about an hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon, 85% illuminated, is over halfway up in the west and over 10° to the upper left of bright Mars.
The lunar orb is at the foot of Castor, along with Pollux make the Gemini Twins. Castor is over 15° above the moon this morning,
Reddish Mars is slightly brighter than sapphire Sirius that is about 20° up in the southwest. Which seems brighter to you?
Mars is retrograding – seeming to move westward compared to the background stars – between the Bull’s horns. Tomorrow the Red Planet passes between them. It passes closest to Elnath on the 18th. By month’s end, Mars continues to brighten as Earth and the planet are closest, about 51 million miles apart.
At this hour look eastward. Topaz Arcturus and sapphire Spica appear higher in the eastern sky each morning. Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern half of the sky – that is north of the celestial equator – is over 20° up in the east. Spica, low in the east-southeast, is about half Arcturus’ altitude – height above the horizon.
Notice Corvus the Crow, a small lopsided box of dimmer stars to the right of Spica in the southeast. The bird rides on the back of Hydra. Its appearance is a signal that the long snake has fully appeared. The head is toward the west between Regulus and Procyon. We’ll point out this dimmer, but large, constellation when the moon is dimmer in a week or so.
Venus and Mercury continue their slow crawl into the evening sky. This evening Mercury sets only four minutes after the sun with Venus following about 12 minutes later.
At one hour after sundown, Arcturus is very low in the west-northwest. Stars as far north as Arcturus appear in the evening sky and the morning sky on the same night. Arcturus soon leaves the evening sky.
The next bright star to appear both before sunrise and after sunset is Vega. At this hour, the bluish star is over two-thirds of the way up in the west. It is farther north than Arcturus and appears high in the western evening sky when it makes its first morning appearance in a week in the northeast, about 45 minutes before sunup.
This evening farther eastward, bright Jupiter is over one-third of the way up in the southeastern sky. It outshines all the other stars in the sky tonight. The Jovian Giant is slowly retrograding in front of a dim Pisces starfield. The apparent westward motion ends on the 24th and the planet appears to move eastward again.
Jupiter and Neptune are in the same binocular field of view. At this hour, Neptune is 6.2° west of the Jovian Giant. Through a binocular, the planet appears as a bluish star. A telescope with some higher magnification is needed to see the planet’s globe, appearing tiny because of its distance of 2.7 billion miles.
If the binocular is held steadily, Jupiter’s large moon Callisto might be visible immediately west of the planet.
The star Deneb Kaitos – meaning “the tail of the sea monster” – is below Jupiter, about one-third of the way from the horizon to the planet. Jupiter crosses a corner of Cetus from February 6 – February 18, 2023. Then it moves back into Pisces before their conjunction on March 1st.
Saturn is about the same altitude as Jupiter, but slightly east of the south cardinal point. The Ringed Wonder is much dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than many of the stars in the sky this evening.
With the binocular find the planet, Deneb Algedi, and Nashira. A third star, identified as Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart) is about 1.0° to the lower right of Saturn. Watch the planet move eastward – away from Iota and toward Nashira – during the next few weeks.
Saturn is the slowest moving of the bright outer planets, so its change is more subtle than Mars’ motion. The Ringed Wonder crosses into Aquarius on February 13, 2023, in bright sunlight, three days before its solar conjunction.
The star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” is to the lower left of Saturn and the lower right of Jupiter.
Mars rises two hours after sundown. Two hours later, the planet is about 20° up in the east-northeast, between the Bull’s horns.
The Red Planet is nearly 20° to the upper right of the gibbous moon, 80% illuminated. Castor and Pollux are to the lower left of the lunar orb, near the horizon.
At this time, four hours after sunset, bright Jupiter is over halfway up in the southern sky and Saturn is about 20° up in the southwest, about the same altitude as Mars.
The moon and five planets, the three bright ones, Uranus, and Neptune, are hanging across the sky the east-northeast to the southwest. In Chicago, this occurs at about 8:30 p.m. CST. Check your local sunset time and look for this necklace of planets and moon pendant four hours later.
At 10:35 p.m. CST, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, less than halfway up in the southwest, is on display in the middle of the planet through a telescope. For locales farther west of Chicago, the planet is higher in the sky and in potentially clearer air to see the spot.
By tomorrow morning, the moon is closer to Castor and Pollux while Mars is cutting between the Bull’s horns in the western sky.
- 2023, October 23: Venus at Greatest ElongationOctober 23, 2023: Venus moves to its farthest angular distance from the sun today, known as greatest elongation. During morning twilight, the Morning Star passes Leo’s Chertan.
- 2023, October 22: Moon Approaches SaturnOctober 22, 2023: During evening hours, the gibbous moon nears Saturn in the southern sky. Venus and Jupiter are visible during morning twilight.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 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.