Cool! See all 4 rocky planets before sunrise in February

Rocky planets: Chart of dawn sky with three planets and slanted green line of ecliptic.
Here they are: Mercury (nearest the sunrise horizon, and a challenge to spot), Venus (now at greatest brilliancy in the eastern predawn sky) and Mars (faint but red in color) in a triangle at dawn. All 3 of these rocky planets are more or less along the sun’s path across our sky (the green line). Wait. That’s just 3. Where’s the 4th? Beneath your feet!

Rocky planets before sunrise

You can spot all four of the small, rocky planets in our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth (look down) and Mars – before sunrise around mid-February 2022. Look east! They’re in the sunrise direction. These are the four major terrestrial planets, Earth and its neighbors, made of rocks and metals. Commune with them over your morning cup of coffee, before you’re whisked away into a busy day.

For us in the Northern Hemisphere, Venus rises above the dawn horizon first, about 2 1/2 hours before sunrise. Its brilliant white light is unmistakable. Its greatest brilliancy for all of 2022 was February 9. Venus shines mightily at magnitude -4.6. That’s as bright as this neighboring world ever gets. You can’t miss Venus blazing away – in the sunrise direction – at dawn.

Up next is Mars, rising about two hours before the sun from Northern Hemisphere locations. Mars will be farther southeast on the horizon, or to the lower right of Venus, as seen from the northern half of the globe. Mars is faint now, shining at magnitude +1.4. It’s far across the solar system from us, only now emerging after being behind the sun as seen from Earth. But, once you come to know Mars, it’s unmistakable for its red color. Mars will be starkly dimmer than Venus, yet still brighter than the surrounding stars.

Last up is Mercury, the innermost planet to the sun. From the Northern Hemisphere, it rises a little more than an hour before the sun, brighter than Mars at magnitude +0.1. Mercury is up long enough before the sun to let you catch the trio of planets together before the sun’s light spoils the view.

3 labeled planets over the New York City skyline in deep blue sky with orange dawn at horizon.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Alexander Krivenyshev of the website captured this image of 3 rocky worlds – brilliant Venus, innermost Mercury and red Mars – over Manhattan, New York on February 9, 2022. You’ll find them all in the eastern sky now before the sun comes up. Thank you, Alexander!

Southern Hemisphere? Never fear.

The Southern Hemisphere view is even better than ours on the northern part of the globe. If you’re in that that of the world, you’ll see the planets higher in your eastern sky before dawn. Check Stellarium for specific views from anywhere on Earth.

 The 2022 lunar calendars are here. Order yours before they’re gone!

Which constellation?

All three planets start February 2022 in front of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. However, by February 15, Mercury will cross into Capricornus the Sea Goat.

Star chart. Constellation Sagittarius with Venus, Mercury and Mars labeled.
View larger. | This star chart represents the view from mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere on February 12 around 5:45 am CST. Mars will slide between the Teapot and Teaspoon asterisms (drawn in red lines) in Sagittarius from February 11 to 16, 2022. Image via CyberSky 5.

Bottom line: See all four rocky planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars and Earth beneath your feet – before sunrise from February 11 to 16.

February 10, 2022

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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