There are currently four planets easily visible in the morning sky: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. Prevously they had been fairly evenly spaced and in a line sloping upward from the east to southeast. Now, however, Venus is quickly moving lower in the sky towards Jupiter and they will pass by each other in a few days. In the meantime, the crescent Moon joined the planetary quartet this week.
Here is an image from 0453 MST 28 April 2022. The Moon was partially obscured by smoke low on the horizon from western wildfires. Also shown is a screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets and Moon with an overlay of the field of view from a 24mm lens.
There are currently four planets easily visible in the morning sky: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. For a few days they have been fairly evenly spaced and in a line sloping upward from the east to southeast. Next week the slim crescent Moon will join them but the spacing will be a bit different.
Here is a shot from about 0502 MST 21 April 2022. Twilight was already brightening the horizon so perhaps I should have been there a half hour earlier. Also shown is a screen shot from Stellarium showing the four planets with an overlay of the field of view from a 24mm lens.
This was taken from the “City Overlook at Lowell Observatory” which is really just a small, designated pulloff of the road to the observatory. It’s nice to know that the City recognizes the value of this location and is working to preserve it.
A few weeks ago Jupiter and Saturn passed very close to each other during the Great Conjunction of 2020. Jupiter and Saturn are now pulling away from each other and are lower in the southwestern sky—but they have been joined by Mercury resulting in a planetary triplet viewable in the twilight.
This is a composite of three images taken over successive nights (09–11 January 2021) that shows the relative motions of the planets Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn in the southwestern sky. The images have been aligned using Saturn as an anchor point.
From this composite, one sees small daily motions of Jupiter as it continues to move eastward away from Saturn—which had their Great Conjunction on 21 December 2020. Mercury exhibits large daily eastward motions as it races toward its greatest eastward elongation on 24 January 2021.
On 21 December 2020, Jupiter and Saturn passed a tenth of a degree from each other in what is known as a Great Conjunction. Great Conjunctions are not rare and occur every 20 years. But the apparent separation between the two planets varies with each event and this one was the third closest in over 800 years (1226 and 1623 were closer) but only one of these was visible; the other was lost in the bright glare of twilight.
The images shown here used a 300mm telephoto lens—which is barely sufficient to resolve the rings of Saturn. The rings can be seen as making Saturn appear oval shaped.
The first image is from 1803 MST on 21 December 2020, just a few hours after closest approach. The second image has labels for the brightest moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Below is an image showing the daily movement of Jupiter relative to Saturn. It is also easy to see the motions of Jupiter’s four largest moons as they appear in different locations for each of the three Jupiter positions.
The planets Jupiter and Saturn are drawing closer to each other in the evening sky with each passing day and will be at their closest on December 21st. In the meantime, the crescent Moon moved through the same part of the sky making a nice triplet in the evening twilight.
Here are views from two nights of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.