December 5, 2022: The bright star Deneb, the tail of Cygnus, is making its first morning appearance – heliacal rising. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn span the evening sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:03 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
SUMMARY ARTICLES FOR CURRENT SKY EVENTS
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Bright Mars is lower in the west-northwest each morning. As it approaches its opposition in two nights, it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Afterwards it sets before sunrise and leaves the sky at this time interval.
One hour before daybreak, the Red Planet is 15° above the west-northwest horizon, 6.6° below Elnath. The planet is retrograding as Earth passes between it and the sun. This is an illusion and not the real motion the planet makes around the sun.
Mars is 10.4° to the upper right of Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, about 5° above the horizon. This is the last morning Aldebaran is included on the star charts and with the Mars morning forecast.
Deneb is making its first morning appearance, in the north-northeast. First locate Vega, about 10° up in the northeast. Deneb is to its lower left, less than 5° above the horizon. As the sky brightens a little, the star is higher in the sky. Depending on the sky clarity, it might be visible this morning without the aid of a binocular. Try each morning during the next few mornings until you find it.
Vega and Deneb continue to appear in the western sky after sunset, but they are far north so that the sky watchers at mid-northern latitudes see them in the evening and morning sky. Deneb sets about five hours before sunrise and then rises about three hours later.
Venus and Mercury seem to struggle to make it into a darker evening sky. Ambitious sky watchers, especially those at more southerly latitudes, can begin to find the two planets in the west in less than a week. Venus sets thirty-nine minutes after sunset, while Mercury follows nearly 10 minutes later.
An hour after sundown, the bright gibbous moon, 96% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the east. It is bound for an occultation of Mars in two nights on the Martian opposition night. An occultation is a type of eclipse that occurs when the moon covers a planet or a planet covers another planet or star. This is the third occultation of Mars by the moon. Five occur during 2023. With clear weather, the occultation in two evenings is visible to sky watchers across large swaths of North America, Iceland, Greenland, Europe and northwest Africa.
This evening Mars is nearly 10° up in the sky, 10.5° to the left of Aldebaran, and 6.4° to the upper right of Elnath. In the eastern sky, Taurus appears to be on its side and backing into the heavens.
The Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, is over 10° to the moon’s lower left. A binocular is helpful to see them with the moon’s brightness that washes over the dimmer stars.
The January 30, 2023, Mars occultation is visible farther southward in the western hemisphere. From Atlanta, the moon does not completely cover the planet, but from Tallahassee the occultation sets before Mars reappears. Dallas is slightly south of Atlanta and the event is visible there as well as from Phoenix. From Los Angeles the occultation begins before sunset and continues into the night. From more westerly longitudes, the occultation is seen farther northward such as from Las Vegas and San Francisco. This occurs two lunar cycles into the future.
More about the imminent Mars opposition occultation in two days.
One hour after sundown, Jupiter is “that bright star” in the south-southeast. Its brightness continues to dominate all the other stars in the sky this evening. The nearest starlike object in brightness is Mars, but the Jovian Giant is twice as bright.
Jupiter is slowly moving eastward against a dim starfield in Pisces. It is slowly picking up eastward speed after its retrograde ended last month.
At this hour Saturn is one-third of the way up in the southwest. It is moving eastward against the stars of eastern Capricornus.
The three bright outer planets are best seen about 2.5 hours after sundown, when Jupiter is about halfway up in the south. Mars is about 20° up in the east, while Saturn is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – in the southwest.
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