November 28, 2022: Before sunrise, Mars – retrograding with Taurus – is with a bright stellar backdrop. After sundown, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn span the sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:56 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: 2:01 UT, 11:57 UT, 21:52 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:
As Earth closes in on Mars to their minimum separation for this apparition of the Red Planet, some of the stars that form the sidereal background are making their last stand in the morning sky. They first appeared during summer and are leaving the western morning sky during this season. We see the same westward migration of these stars during the evening during fall and winter. They appear in the eastern sky after sunset. Next spring, they begin to disappear into the bright evening twilight, beginning the cycle again during the summer months.
The stars include Sirius – the night’s brightest star – Betelgeuse, Rigel, and Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star that is below Mars.
Procyon, Pollux, Castor, and Capella are higher in the sky and they disappear from the morning sky later in the year.
Mars is retrograding, seeming to move westward compared to the stars, below (west of) the Bull’s horns. It is 4.7° to the lower left of Elnath – the northern horn. As stated earlier, Earth and Mars are nearest on the evening of the 30th.
Mercury and Venus continue their slow emergence from bright sunlight after their individual superior conjunctions at the far arcs of their solar orbits. Both set 30 minutes after sunset. While they set at the same time, Mercury is 2.6° from Venus. Their conjunction occurred a few days ago.
An hour after sunset, the waxing crescent moon, 31% illuminated, is about 25° above the south-southwest horizon and 6.8° to the lower right of Saturn.
The lunar crescent is showing earthshine – a gently illuminated lunar night that is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s features. As the phase reaches First Quarter in two mornings, earthshine diminishes. View the effect with a binocular or capture it with a tripod-mounted camera and an exposure of several seconds.
Saturn is slowly moving eastward in front of the stars of Capricornus. The planet’s change is noticeable from night to night with a binocular compared to the stars that appear in the field of view.
Jupiter is that bright star in the southeast during the early evening. After it stopped retrograding, the planet is slowly moving eastward compared to a very dim starfield of Pisces. After the moon leaves the Saturn region, it passes the Jovian Giant on December 1st.
Mars rises 30 minutes after sunset. Look for it in the east three hours after sundown, when Jupiter is about halfway up in the south and Saturn is about 20° up in the southwest. The three bright outer planets outline the arc of the solar system’s plane – the ecliptic.
By tomorrow morning, Mars is the lone bright outer planet that is low in the western sky.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.