November 15, 2022: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible through a telescope twice today. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn span the sky from east-northeast to the southwest during the early evening.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:40 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:30 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: 6:14 UT, 16:09 UT; Nov. 16, 2:05 UT. Convert the 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.
From the American Central Time Zone, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible twice today, 12:14 a.m. CST and 8:05 p.m. CST. During the early morning appearance of the spot, Jupiter is only 20° up in the west-southwest. This is not an ideal location in the sky to see the spot. The atmosphere blurs the view and sometimes make the planet dance and shimmer in a telescopic eyepiece. From locations farther westward, the planet is higher in the sky and in clearer, steadier air.
By evening, the planet rotates twice. Notice from the times, the rotation is nine hours, fifty-five minutes. Since the spot is an atmospheric effect, it can wander in longitude, appearing in the center of the planets a view minutes before or after the predicted times from Sky & Telescope magazine. The spot appears about 50 minutes before its central passing and up to the same time after. The 16:09 UT passing is 10:09 a.m. CST. Jupiter is below the horizon in Chicago, but visible from other locations farther eastward or westward, depending on the direction travelled, where the planet is above the horizon during that locale’s nighttime.
By 2:05 UT on November 16, 8:05 p.m. CST, Jupiter is again above the horizon in Chicago and the Red Spot is on full display again. From the Central Time Zone, the planet is over halfway up in the south, a prime location with little atmospheric interference. The spot is in the southern hemisphere near the planet’s center.
Set up a Red Spot watching with the neighborhood sky watcher. While this is a week night, it’s still relatively early enough to see the spot in a prime celestial location without an early alarm.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
This morning at one hour before daybreak, the bright gibbous moon, 60% illuminated, is high in the south-southwest in front of Cancer’s dim stars. A binocular may assist to find the star Asellus Australis – the southern donkey, 5.4° to the lower right of the lunar orb. There is a star cluster nearby, the Beehive, but bright moonlight ruins the view. The Beehive is also known as the Praesepe, the manger. There is another donkey – Asellus Borealis – not shown on the chart, but visible through a binocular.
Cancer is between Gemini and Leo. This seemingly empty patch of sky spans over 37° from Pollux – one of the Twins – to Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.
Regulus is at the bottom of a backwards question mark of stars, frequently known as the Sickle of Leo, a reference to a farmer’s curved, sharp harvesting tool.
At this hour, Mars, the brightest “star” in the sky this morning, is below or west of an imaginary line from Elnath to Zeta Tauri – the Bull’s horns. The Red Planet is retrograding – an illusion when Earth passes between an outer planet and the sun.
Retrograde began October 30 and continues through January 12, 2023. Mars passes Elnath, for a second conjunction in a triple conjunction series, in three nights. It is closest to Earth on November 30. (Disregard those Internet memes that show Mars as large as the moon. Even at 51 million miles away, it’ll still look like a bright star.) Mars is at opposition on December 7th. On this evening, the moon occults or covers the Red Planet. A second conjunction occurs with Aldebaran on December 26th.
Venus and Mercury continue their slow crawl into the evening sky. Mercury sets eight minutes after sundown and Venus follows 11 minutes later.
You still might be able to catch Arcturus in the west-northwest at about 45 minutes after sunset. It is still appearing in the western evening sky and in the east before sunrise.
By an hour after sunset, bright Jupiter continues its display. It is “that bright star” in the southeast. It retrogrades for about another week in front of a dim Pisces starfield. Remember to look for its Red Spot this evening, as described earlier.
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 a conjunction with Venus on March 1st.
Saturn, nearly one-third of the way up in the sky, is nearly south at this hour. It is moving very slowly eastward in front of the stars of eastern Capricornus, but it is still west of Nashira and Deneb Algedi.
The star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – is about 15° up in the south-southeast.
Four hours after sunset, Mars is about 20° up in the east-northeast. It joins Jupiter and Saturn in this continuing nighttime display of three bright outer planets. At this hour Jupiter is in the south, with the Red Spot nearly on full display from the middle of the US. Saturn is in the southwest at about 20° up in the sky.
As the midnight hour approaches, the moon is above the east-northeast horizon. By tomorrow morning during early twilight, Mars is in the west, while the moon is in the south, closer to Leo’s Sickle than this morning.
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