November 25, 2022: The crescent moon returns to the southwest after sundown. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are along the ecliptic during the early evening.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:52 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:23 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: 4:31 UT, 14:27 UT; Nov. 26, 0:22 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 0.547 AU away. This evening, about four hours after sundown, the separation is 0.547 AU.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, Mars is less than one-third of the way up in the west. It appears lower in the sky each morning at this time interval before sunrise.
Just five nights before the minimum separation between Earth and Mars, the Red Planet is the brightest “star” in the sky at this hour. Even at its closest, Mars resembles a bright star. The planet’s globe is visible only through a telescope. Unlike the internet memes, it does not appear as large as the moon.
Jupiter is two times brighter than Mars.
Mars is retrograding in front of Taurus, below the Bull’s horns – Elnath and Zeta Tauri. It is 4.2° to the lower left of the northern horn.
The Red Planet’s nightly change compared to the distant starfield is easy to notice. Taurus has many bright stars to make this comparison.
Venus and Mercury are slowly emerging from bright evening twilight. Mercury passed Venus recently, but in the glare of early twilight. Even though Mercury is east of Venus, it is farther southward and sets before the sun’s second planet.
Speedy Mercury sets twenty-four minutes after sundown, while Venus sets four minutes later.
Forty-five minutes after sunset, the whisker-thin crescent moon, 6% illuminated, is only 4° up in the southwest. Find a clear horizon in that direction. A hillside or elevated structure can provide views across obstructions.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is in the southeast and Mars is rising. Wait another 15 minutes to see Saturn easier and another hour or so to see Mars above the neighbor’s house or trees.
Jupiter’s retrograded ended yesterday, and it is moving very slowly eastward against a Pisces sidereal background. It’ll pick up speed during the next few weeks.
The star Deneb Kaitos – meaning “the sea monster’s tail” – is about halfway from Jupiter to the horizon.
Saturn is in the south, about one-third of the way up in the sky. It moves eastward in eastern Capricornus, near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira. Tonight, it is 2.9° to the right of Nashira.
The Jupiter-Saturn gap is 3.2°. This shrinks a little during the next several days as Jupiter’s eastward speed accelerates, but for the next several days Saturn is moving faster eastward than Jupiter.
The star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – is in the south-southeast, over 15° above the horizon.
At 6:22 p.m. CST, Jupiter is nearly halfway up in the sky in the southeast from Chicago. The planet’s Great Red Spot is visible through a telescope in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. For sky watchers farther eastward, the planet is more southward and higher in the sky.
About three hours after sundown, Jupiter is over halfway up in the south. Mars is over 20° above the east-northeast horizon. Saturn is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – in the southwest. The three bright outer planets are hanging on an arc of the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system.
Mars reaches opposition on December 7th, when it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Each evening the planet is higher in the sky at the same time interval after sunset and lower each morning. After opposition, the planet is higher in the sky at sunset, setting before sunrise.
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- 2023, December 27: Morning Cold Moon, Morning Star, Jupiter, SaturnDecember 27, 2023: The Cold Moon is in the western sky before sunrise. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 26: Cold Moon, Venus, Jupiter, SaturnDecember 26, 2023: The Cold Moon is visible during the nighttime hours. Venus shines before sunrise while Jupiter and Saturn are visible after sundown.
- 2023, December 25: Telescope First Light, Bright PlanetsDecember 25, 2023: For sky watchers with new telescopes, here’s what to look at before dawn or after sunset.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Heliacal RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.