A rare view of five planets after sunset – when the curves line up

December 23, 2022: See a rare display of the five bright planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars – simultaneously after sunset.

Image Caption – 2020, November 20: Before sunrise, bright Venus is low to the east-southeast, 5.8 degrees to the lower left of Spica. Mercury is low in the sky.

By Jeffrey L Hunt

Chicago, IL: Sunrise, 7:16 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:24 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Daylight has reached the shortest period of time of the year, which is nine hours and eight minutes. The latest sunrise time (7:18 a.m. CST) starts on the 28thThe tenth It runs until January 10The tenth.

Transit times of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, when it is at the planet’s center in the Southern Hemisphere: 7:46 UT, 17:42 UT; December 24 at 3:38 UTC. Convert the time to your timezone. In the US, subtract five hours for EST, six hours for CST, and so on. Use the telescope to see the spot. times of Sky and telescope magazine.

Here are the forecasts for today’s planet:

morning sky

Chart caption – In late December, The Big Dipper points the way to other stars when it is high in the sky. This morning helps get to know Leo.

The morning sky is empty of a bright planet. Tomorrow morning at 4:17 a.m. CST, moon number 1237 begins. The lunar cycle is the number of lunar cycles since 1923.

Get out about an hour before sunrise and look southwest. Leo, with its brightest star Regulus, is halfway up in the sky. The constellation appears here every month when the moon passes these stars.

This morning’s interest is the Big Dipper high in the northern sky. Note on the chart the upper mark, sometimes called the zenith – the highest spot in the sky.

When the dipper is as high in the sky as it is in late fall and early winter mornings, it helps us locate other stars. Its stars at the end of the bowl point us to the North Star Polaris.

Polaris is located nearby over the Earth’s North Pole. At the geographic North Pole, Polaris is located almost overhead. As such, it didn’t seem to move around much during the night. For occasional observation it is north. From mid-northern latitudes, it’s about halfway up in the sky. It is not the brightest star, but it is number 48 on the list of the brightest stars visible in the Earth’s sky. The star is not visible south of the Earth’s equator.

The curved handle indicates the direction of Arcturus rising to the southeast.

Leo is in the opposite direction to Polaris. It can be found by going through the bottom of the plunger bowl.

Although there are no planets in the morning sky until late January, many bright stars grace the celestial vault before sunrise.

evening sky

Chart commentary – 2022, December 23: Forty minutes after sunset, four of the five planets can be seen from southwest to southeast.

Over the next five evenings, look out for a rare view of the five bright planets, from the point of sunset – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. The next time five planets are in the sky at once is mid-April 2036.

First, find an open spot with a clear horizon in the southwest. An elevated or raised structure may help to see Mercury and Venus near the horizon.

Second, take binoculars. This is useful for finding Mercury, Venus, and possibly Saturn during the brighter twilights.

The observation window is narrow, lasting no more than 30 minutes before Venus becomes too low to see. Start looking for Venus and Mercury near the southwest horizon about 30 minutes after sunset.

At this time, Venus is located approximately 5 degrees above the southwestern horizon and to the right of the southwest direction. Venus is far enough from the Sun that it can be seen without binoculars, but use it at first to find the planet.

Mercury is 4.6 degrees higher and left of the Evening Star and in the same binocular field when Venus is moved to the lower right of the view.

Try to find Jupiter about halfway in the southeast and Mars in the east-northeast. At this level of twilight, Saturn is unlikely to be visible.

The fineness of the atmosphere is a factor. High clouds or local clouds can make this view a challenge. Sometimes Jupiter and Mars can be seen in this interval.

Continue to search for planets for the next 25 to 30 minutes. By 40 minutes after sunset, Venus is lower in the sky with Mercury at the same distance as before.

Saturn lies about 30 degrees to the south-southwest – about a third of the distance from the horizon to the top. It’s the same distance to the upper left of Mercury.

Chart Caption – 2022, December 23: Forty minutes after sunset, Mars is to the east-northeast near Aldebaran and Capella.

Jupiter is to the south-southeast—about halfway up the sky—and Mars is about 20 degrees above the horizon between east-northeast. Capella and Aldebaran can be seen near Mars.

Find the five planets along an arc from Venus to Mars. Don’t confuse Saturn with the star Fomalhaut which is low in the sky and almost above, heading south.

Tomorrow evening, the crescent moon will join Venus and Mercury in the southwest. Two nights later, the waxing moon was close to Saturn. This will help with identification. Meanwhile, Mercury is still close to Venus, but it’s starting to fade in brightness.

Chart Caption – 2022, December 23: Saturn visible through binoculars near Nashira and Deneb Algedi.

Two hours after sunset, look at Saturn through binoculars to check its eastward direction compared to Deneb Algedi and Nashira. The Ringed Wonder is located 1.4 steps to the upper right of Nashira. The planet passes the star on 27 eveningsThe tenth and 28The tenth.

Jupiter (NASA images)

At 9:38 p.m. CST, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is at the planet’s primary observing location, but from Chicago, the planet is only 20 degrees above the west-southwest horizon, not an ideal spot. Skywatchers using telescopes farther west can see the planet higher in the sky and in cleaner air.

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