November 21, 2022: Spica is near the moon in the eastern sky before sunup. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – the bright outer planets – form an arc across the sky during the evening.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:48 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:25 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: 1:14 UT, 11:09 UT, 21:05 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.
Mars watch: Mars is closest at 8:16 p.m. CST on November 30 (2:16 UT, December 1). The distance is 0.544 Astronomical Unit, also known as an AU, where one AU is about 93,000,000 miles. Before sunrise, the planet is 0.553 AU away. This evening, about four hours after sundown, the separation is 0.552 AU.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunup, a thin crescent moon is less than 20° up in the east-southeast, 4.7° to the lower left of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, meaning “the ear of corn.”
The moon’s crescent is only 7% illuminated and displaying earthshine – reflected sunlight from Earth’s features. This gently illuminates the lunar night and the view can be improved with a binocular. Capture the effect with a tripod mounted camera and exposures lasting up to several seconds.
Topaz Arcturus is over one-third of the way up in the east, to the upper left of the lunar crescent and Spica.
Begin looking for Vega, the brightest in Lyra, low in the northeast. It is making its first morning appearance. The star is far northward and it appears in the evening sky when it makes its first morning appearance.
Stars that are near the ecliptic and farther southward viewed from the northern hemisphere, disappear completely into the bright sunlight after sunset only to reappear at some time later in the eastern morning sky. The stars that are far northward have different displays. Some stars like those in the Dippers, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Draco never set. They are known as the circumpolar stars. They are in the northern sky, all night, every night.
There’s a similar effect in the southern hemisphere. For example, Sirius disappears into bright evening twilight in the northern hemisphere during spring and reappears in the eastern morning sky during summer. From mid-southern latitudes, Sirius’ display is similar to Arcturus and Vega in the northern hemisphere. The Dog Star appears in the morning sky before it disappears from the evening view. And there is a group of stars that never set in the southern hemisphere, different from those seen in the northern hemisphere.
Farther westward, bright Mars is about one-third of the way up in the west. It is marching westward in front of Taurus, below (west) of the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri. It began to retrograde on October 30th. It is now picking up westward speed and its place is noticeably different each morning compared to the horns.
As noted above, Earth is catching up on a faster, inner orbital path with the two planets closest on November 30th. Earth passes between Mars and the sun, known as opposition, on December 7th.
Mars is brighter than Sirius, that is about half Mars’ height above the horizon, in the southwest. Notice the contrast in colors. Sirius is blue-white because it is a hot star. Mars is reddish because it is covered with dust and reflects sunlight. The planet continues to brighten through the next several days.
Venus and Mercury are slowly entering the evening sky, but they are setting during bright twilight. Speedy Mercury is beginning to catch Venus. It sets eighteen minutes after sundown, while Venus follows six minutes later.
Jupiter is “that bright star” in the southeast as night falls. It is nearing the end of its retrograde in front of a dim Pisces starfield.
The star Deneb Kaitos – meaning “the tail of the sea monster” – is below Jupiter, nearly halfway 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, dimmer than Jupiter, is southward, about one-third of the way up and slightly lower than Jupiter’s altitude. The Ringed Wonder is moving eastward in front of Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira.
Through a binocular, Saturn is 1.3° to the upper left of Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart) and 3.0° to the right of Nashira.
Mars rises 66 minutes after sundown. Two hours after sunset, it is less than 10° up in the east-northeast. Ninety minutes later – that’s 3.5 hours after the sun sets, the three bright outer planets are along the ecliptic from east-northeast to southwest. Mars is in the east-northeast. Bright Jupiter is in the south, near its highest point of the evening, while Saturn is in the southwest.
The dimmer outer planets – Uranus and Neptune – are in the sky as well. Uranus is to the upper right of Mars, while Neptune is in the same binocular field of view as Jupiter – to the Jovian Giant’s west.
By tomorrow morning, Mars is again in the west before sunrise. Forty-five minutes before daybreak a whisker-thin crescent moon is above the east-southeast horizon.
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