Beautiful Morning Crescent, Evening Spot Five Planets – When the Curves Align

December 19, 2022: Before dawn, the crescent moon approaches the pincers of the Scorpion. After sunset, try to spot the five bright planets after sunset.

Caption: View of Earth as seen by the crew of Apollo 17 traveling to the moon. This photograph of the translunar coastline extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the southern polar cap of Antarctica. This is the first time that the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap. (NASA photo)

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:14 am CST; Sunset, 4:22 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Daylight has reached the shortest time interval of the year, nine hours and eight minutes. The last sunrise (7:18 am CST) begins on the 28ththe and lasts until January 10the.

Transit times of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, when it is at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 4:28 UT, 14:24 UT; December 20, 0:20 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 place. The times are from sky and telescope magazine.

Caption – (December 19, 1972) – The Apollo 17 Command Module, with astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt aboard, approaches splashdown in the South Pacific Ocean for successfully complete the final lunar landing mission in NASA’s Apollo Program. (NAS photo)

this is 50the anniversary of the last Apollo lunar mission: Apollo 17. On December 19, 1972, the crew returned to Earth. The command module with Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt landed in the Pacific Ocean.

nasa summary of the mission stated: “The Apollo 17 mission was the most successful and productive piloted mission ever, and represented the culmination of continuous advances in hardware, procedures, training, planning, operations, and scientific experiments.”

This ended a phase of human space exploration that placed 12 humans on the moon for brief visits.

Here is the planet’s forecast for today:

morning sky

Chart Legend: December 19, 2022: Before sunrise, the crescent moon is at the bottom left of Spica and at the top right of Scorpion’s pincers.

There are no bright planets in the sky this morning. One hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 19% illuminated, is approximately one-third (30°) of the way south-southeast, 11.6° to the lower left of Spica.

January 31, 2019: Venus and the crescent moon up close. Observe “earthshine” on the night part of the moon.

The moon is showing the brightness of the earth in its night part. Sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land gently illuminates the lunar night.

Note the Scorpion’s pincers, Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi, approximately 10° to the bottom left of the crescent moon. It is about the brightness of the stars of the Big Dipper.

At this time, the Scorpion appears to be climbing over the southeast horizon. Today the pincer stars belong to Libra. The Scorpion’s forehead, Dschubba, is almost 10° above the horizon. Antares, the heart, makes its first morning appearance, known as a heliacal rise, within a few mornings.

evening sky

Chart Legend: December 19, 2022: Venus and Mercury are visible in the southwest after sunset.

Start looking for the screen of five planets. Venus and Mercury are low in the southwest during the brightest twilight. At that time the challenge is Saturn. Not as bright as Jupiter or Mars, this outer planet becomes visible about 45 minutes after sunset.

Find a clear horizon, looking southwest. 24ththethe evening crescent moon unites the view with the two inner planets.

Tonight, 30 minutes after sunset, bright Venus is about 5° above the southwest horizon to the right of the southwest point. While the planet is near the horizon, it is bright enough to be seen without the optical assistance of a binocular, at this level of twilight, but one may be needed to find it initially.

Caption: March 1, 2019: Venus and the moon near dawn.

One technique I use is to move: walk towards or away from the suspected location on the planet to compare it to a nearby tree or building. If you find it, you can show it to a fellow skywatcher by referencing the planet to the terrestrial feature. The photo attached above shows the planet with reference to a tree.

Mercury is 5.7° to the upper left of Venus. Both easily fit into the same binocular field of view. The planet is quite bright. Can you see it without the binoculars?

Saturn is more than 30° to the upper left of Mercury and the same distance above the south-southwestern horizon. It is not bright and probably not visible without optical assistance as this level of twilight.

Point the binocular in the general direction to slowly scan the sky up and down or left to right, in a pattern with the binocular field of view overlapping—a grid search.

Over the next few minutes, the sky darkens further and Venus and Mercury are lower in the sky. Saturn could be visible during this interval, depending on the clarity of the sky. If so, look for Mercury and Venus in the southwest, Jupiter in the south-southeast, and Mars in the east-northeast.

Fifteen minutes later, 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury is lowest in the southwest and Venus is very low, almost setting, but theoretically visible due to its brightness.

Chart Legend: December 19, 2022: Forty-five minutes after sunset, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southern sky.

Saturn is easily seen in the south-southwest and bright Jupiter is in the south-southeast, about halfway (45°) in the sky.

Chart Legend: December 19, 2022: After sunset, Mars is in the east-northeast near Aldebaran and Capella.

Mars is in the east-northeast, more than 20° above the horizon. The Red Planet is 8.3° to the upper left of Aldebaran and more than 20° to the lower right of Capella. Mars is considerably brighter than the two stars.

The next two hours is the best time to spot the three outer planets, before Saturn is too low in the southwestern sky.

Jupiter (NASA photo)

At 6:20 pm CST, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in view of skywatchers with telescopes, at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. From Chicago, the planet is more than half its height in the south and a good viewing location for the entire American continent. Tomorrow morning, all the planets will be below the horizon. The crescent moon is below Zubenelgenubi. Tomorrow night offers an enhanced opportunity to view all five planets simultaneously.

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