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.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:29 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location. Times are calculated from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
Sunrise is at its latest time. This continues through January 10th.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot’s transit times, when it is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 8:35 UT, 18:31 UT; Dec. 31, 4:27. 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 spot. Times are from Sky & Telescope magazine.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
As the calendar turns over to today’s date, a bright congregation of stars is in the southern sky. The night’s brightest star, Sirius, is south at the midnight hour. The star rises in the east-southeast 2.5 hours after sundown, appears in the south at midnight, and sets in the west-southwest over two hours before sunup.
Mercury is retreating back into bright evening twilight and dimming as it moves toward its inferior conjunction – between Earth and the sun – on January 7th.
At forty-five minutes after sundown, find Mercury with a binocular 2.7° to the lower right of brilliant Venus that is about 5° up in the southwest. Speedy Mercury is dimming and tonight it is about the brightness of Saturn.
The Ringed Wonder is over 25° to the upper left of the Evening Star. Each evening, Saturn is lower in the southwest and Venus is higher. Venus passes Saturn on January 22nd. Each evening, watch Venus close in on Saturn.
As Mercury moves from the evening sky to a morning view, four bright planets are visible after sunset until early February.
This evening the moon, 60% illuminated, is over halfway up in the south-southeast sky and nearly 20° to the upper left of bright Jupiter.
Bright Mars is over one-third of the way up in the eastern sky and to the upper right of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star.
Look for Betelgeuse near the horizon. It rises at sunset in a few evenings.
As the sky darkens further, look at Saturn through a binocular and note its position compared to the stars in eastern Capricornus. The planet forms a nice triangle with Nashira and Deneb Algedi. It is passing Nashira. This evening’s gap is 1.3°. Each clear evening watch Saturn move eastward compared to the starry backdrop. The Ringed Wonder passes Deneb Algedi on January 14th.
After the end of evening twilight, Mars is higher in the eastern sky. It is 8.3° to the upper left of Aldebaran. The Red Planet continues the illusion of retrograde until January 12th, passing the star again in the third conjunction of a triple conjunction series on January 30th. Look for the moon near Mars on January 3rd.
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- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Heliacal RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.