November 27, 2022: The classic solar system is east of the sun appearing in the evening. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to find. The evening crescent displays earthshine.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:54 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:22 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: 6:10 UT, 16:05 UT; Nov. 28, 2:01 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. The planet is 0.545AU away today.
This closest approach is the smallest gap between the two planets until July 5, 2033, when the two planets are 0.423 astronomical units apart.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, Mars is about 25° above the west-northwest horizon. It is quickly disappearing from the morning sky at this time interval. On December 7, Mars’ opposition with the sun, it sets at sunrise. Each morning it is lower in the sky.
The planet is retrograding in front of the stars of Taurus, 4.5° to the lower left of Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn. Retrograde motion is an illusion when Earth passes between the sun and a slower-moving outer planet. Earth passes Mars every 25 months.
Earth passes slower moving Jupiter about every 400 days, and Saturn about every 380 days. These giant planets retrograde nearly every calendar year. Mars retrogrades every two years. In comparison, the slow-moving, classic ninth planet Pluto retrogrades every 367 days. The farther away a planet is from the sun the shorter the time between its oppositions, when Earth passes between the sun and the planet.
Eight of the classic solar system’s planets and the moon are east of the sun, setting after sundown. Mercury and Venus are hiding in bright twilight, slowly emerging from that glare. Mercury sets twenty-seven minutes after sundown and Venus follows two minutes later.
While visible earlier, thirty minutes later, the crescent moon, 21% illuminated, is nearly 20° up in the west-southwest. The moon is showing earthshine on its night portion – reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land gently illuminates the lunar night. The effect is easily seen with a binocular and photographed with a tripod-mounted camera.
The classic ninth planet Pluto is 5.1° to the upper right of the moon. A large aperture telescope is needed to see it from a dark location. Further, the planet is lower in the sky, visible through a thicker atmosphere, making it difficult to see. We call its attention because of the concentration of planets in the evening sky.
Saturn, very easy to see, is about one-third of the way up in the south, west of the south cardinal point. The planet is slowly moving eastward in front of the stars of eastern Capricornus. The Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° to the upper left of the lunar crescent.
Jupiter is “that bright star” in the southeast as the sky darkens. It is slowly moving eastward in front of dim Pisces. The Jupiter-Saturn gap is 39.1°.
Neptune is in the same binocular field of view with Jupiter, 6.1° to the west (right of) the Jovian Giant. As Jupiter moves eastward, it moves from the same field of view with the most-distant planet from the sun in the new solar system model that reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. (Historically, Pluto is one of the classic nine planets. Several things in astronomy are misnamed and retain their historic names, such as planetary nebulae – exploded stars rather than planets that are forming.)
Through the binocular, Neptune appears as a dim bluish star. A telescope is required to see the planet as a tiny globe because it is nearly 2.9 billion miles away, revolving around the sun nearly every 164 earth-years.
Mars rises forty-one minutes after sunset. At this hour, it is about 4° above the east-northeast horizon. Wait for a while to see it higher.
Uranus is in front of a dim Aries starfield, one-third of the way from Mars to Jupiter and nearly 15° to the right of the Pleiades star cluster.
By three hours after sunset, Jupiter is over halfway up in the southern sky. Mars is about 20° up in the east-northeast, while Saturn is the same altitude above the southwest. These bright outer planets dot the plane of the ecliptic. At this time, the moon is about 5° above the southwestern horizon.
For sky watchers with telescopes, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 8:01 p.m. CST. The planet is halfway up in the sky above the south-southwest horizon. Sky watchers farther westward see the planet higher in the south.
During the night, Jupiter and Saturn set, leaving Mars in the western sky as the lone bright outer planet.
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