2023, January 5: Bright Moon, Evening Planets, Orion’s Rigel

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January 5, 2023: The bright moon can be seen before sunrise and after sunset.  Four bright planets are strung across the sky from southwest to east after sundown.  Orion’s Rigel rises at sundown.

2020, September 4: Venus, Sirius, Procyon, and Orion shine from the eastern sky during early morning twilight.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:33 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 the 10th.  The length of daylight slowly increases during January to ten hours by the end of the month.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot’s transit times, when it is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 3:38 UT, 13:34UT, 23:29 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 spot.  Times are from Sky & Telescope magazine.

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, January 5: The moon is in the west-northwest, at the feet of Gemini, at 90 minutes before sunup.

At 90 minutes before sunup, the bright moon, 98% illuminated, is less than 10° above the west-northwest horizon.  It is at the feet of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins.  The moon is nearly 25° to the lower right of the Twin’s stars.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, January 5: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible after sundown.

Four bright planets – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn – are putting on an evening exhibition.  At forty-five minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is over 5° up in the southwest.  Find a clear horizon looking toward the planet’s location.  An elevated structure or hilltop provide views across terrestrial obstacles.

Venus is quickly stepping eastward. Last month, Mercury joined Venus, but it is departing the evening sky for a morning appearance later during the month.  Venus is moving toward Saturn, cutting the gap about one degree each night.  This evening Venus is less than 20° to the lower right of dimmer Saturn.  Venus passes the Ringed Wonder on the 22nd.

After Saturn’s conjunction, Venus moves quickly toward Jupiter, passing it on March 1st.  The two bright planets are within 10° of each other from February 20th through March 11th.  That separation is about the distance from your thumb knuckle to the pinky knuckle when you fist is extended to arm’s length. The Jovian Giant is halfway up in the south at this hour. 

Chart Caption – 2023, January 5: Mars and the moon are with bright stars in the eastern sky. Orion’s Rigel rises at sundown

Farther eastward, the bright moon, 99% illuminated, is less than 20° up in the east-northeast.  The Full moon phase occurs tomorrow at 5:08 p.m. CST.

Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, are over 15° to the lower left of the lunar orb, while Capella is over 20° to the moon’s upper left.

Chart Caption – The opposition of Mars, 2022. This chart shows the motion of Mars compared to Tauris from August 16, 2022 through March 30, 2023.

Mars, brighter than all the other stars in this part of the sky, is nearly 40° above the east cardinal point.  It continues to retrograde in front of Taurus for another week.  This evening it is 8.5° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star.

Orion is making its first appearances during the early evening at this season.  It is near the horizon, slightly south (to the right) of the east direction.  This evening Rigel, Orion’s knee, rises at sunset.

Photo Caption – This Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet’s trademark Great Red Spot, and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years. The colors, and their changes, provide important clues to ongoing processes in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is at center stage through a telescope at 5:29 p.m. CST. This occurs during evening twilight and it is several minutes later than times for the charts.  The planet is halfway up in the sky in the south.  Sky watchers farther eastward see the planet lower in a darker sky, but high enough for good views.

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