November 18, 2022: Tonight, Mars passes Beta Tauri – the northern horn of Taurus. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible along the solar system’s plane during the evening.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:44 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:27 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: 3:44 UT, 13:39 UT, 23:35 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.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY
About an hour before sunrise, step outside and look westward. Many bright stars appear there that are part of a somewhat nearby concentration of stars in the Milky Way. During autumn mornings they appear in this location as well as during spring evenings.
The brightest is sapphire Sirius, less than 20° up in the southwest. Depending on the weather, it may be twinkling wildly. This view is accented with a binocular that shows the effect as well as a display of alternating colors.
Orion, with its two bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, are in the west-southwest. Taurus is farther to the right along the horizon, above the west direction.
Mars passes 4.0° from Beta Tauri, also known as Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn. This is the middle conjunction in a series of triple conjunctions during this Martian appearance.
The Red Planet passed the first time on October 10th, while it was moving eastward compared to the distant starfield. The planet began retrograding October 30th, making its second pass during today’s nighttime hours. The final conjunction occurs on March 9, 2023, after the planet resumes its eastward direction.
Retrograde motion is an illusion of another planet when Earth passes between the planet and the sun. The line of sight from Earth to the planet is projected to the distant stars. As both planets revolve around the sun, the line of sight normally moves eastward against the starfield, so the planet seems to move eastward. When Earth begins to move between the planet and the sun, the line-of-sight changes to a westward motion, all while both planets continue their normal orbital directions.
Mars is brighter than Sirius and continues to grow in visual intensity for about another two weeks when Earth and Mars are at their closest, about 51 million miles apart on November 30th. Earth passes between Mars and the sun – opposition – on December 7th.
Four other stars are higher in the sky. Capella is to the upper right of Mars. Castor and Pollux are higher above Orion. Procyon is above Sirius.
With Arcturus in the eastern sky and Spica in the east-southeast, eight of the ten brightest stars visible from the mid-northern latitudes are in the sky at this time.
The crescent moon, 31% illuminated, is about halfway up in the southeast, to the lower right of Denebola – meaning “the lion’s tail.”
Look again this morning for earthshine on the moon’s night portion. This effect is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land. It gently illuminates the lunar night.
SUMMARY FOR VENUS AS AN EVENING STAR, 2022-2023
Venus and Mercury continue their slow entry into the evening sky. This evening Mercury sets thirteen minutes after the sun, followed by Venus nine minutes later.
Three bright planets are seen during the evening. As night falls, Jupiter is the first to appear in the southeastern sky. It is “that bright star,” over one-third of the way up in the southeast an hour after sundown. It is slowing to ending its retrograde on the 24th in front of Pisces.
As night falls, Saturn appears in the south. It is about the same altitude as Jupiter, but considerably dimmer, although it is brighter than most stars in the sky. The Ringed Wonder is moving eastward against Capricornus, two stars – Deneb Algedi and Nashira – are to the left (east) of the planet.
By two hours after sunset, Mars is low in the east-northeast. Ninety minutes later, Mars is over 20° above the east-northeast horizon, 4.0° to the lower right of Elnath, Beta Tauri.
Jupiter is over halfway up in the south and Saturn is about 20° up in the southwest.
The three bright outer planets are along an arc of the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system. Dimmer Neptune is in the same binocular field as Jupiter. Uranus is in front of Aries, about 15° to the upper right of the Pleiades star cluster. This is about 8 p.m. CST in Chicago. Check your local time to look for the three bright planets at 3.5 hours after sundown.
This display appears earlier each evening. As Earth revolves around the sun, the stars appear farther westward each night at the same time. By year’s end this trio and dimmer pair are in the sky shortly after sundown when Mercury and Venus join them for another five-planet display.
By tomorrow morning, the moon is thinner and lower in the eastern sky. Mars shines from the western sky with its stellar posse nearby.
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