2023, January 6: Wolf Moon, Evening, Four Bright Planets

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January 6, 2023: The bright Full moon appears near Castor and Pollux all night.  Four bright planets – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars – span the sky after sundown.

Photo Caption – A Full moon. Photo by João Luccas Oliveira on Pexels.com

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:35 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: 9:25 UT, 19:21 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

An hour before sunrise, the bright, nearly-full moon is about 10° above the west-northwest horizon.  With its brightness, the lunar orb washes out all but the brightest stars.

Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, are over 10° above the moon.

Mercury is still east of the sun, setting 15 minutes after the central star’s departure from the sky.  Tomorrow, the speedy planet passes between Earth and the sun, scampering into the morning sky.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, January 6: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible after sundown.

The moon reaches its Full phase at 5:08 p.m. CST.

Four bright planets put on their nightly display after sunset.  At forty-five minutes after sundown find a clear horizon looking toward the southwest.  Brilliant Venus is over 5° above the horizon.  It is slowly emerging from bright evening twilight.

Each clear evening, note the narrowing gap from Venus to Saturn, 20° above the southwest horizon and 18.1° to the upper left of Venus.  The Evening Star passes the Ringed Wonder on the 22nd

Venus passes Saturn at least once each calendar year. After the upcoming conjunction, the next Venus-Saturn conjunction is March 21, 2024, although they rise during bright twilight.  This is followed by a conjunction in a dark evening sky on January 19, 2025.

Venus continues its eastward step, passing Jupiter on March 1st.  This evening, Jupiter is “that bright star” about halfway up in the south at this hour.  Like, the 2024 Venus-Saturn conjunction, the May 23rd Venus-Jupiter conjunction of that year is in bright twilight.  On August 12, 2025, the Venus-Jupiter conjunction occurs before sunrise.

Chart Caption – 2023, January 6: Mars, the bright moon, and the stellar background is in the east after sunset.

This evening, the Full (Wolf) moon is over 10° above the east-northeast horizon, over 6° to the right of Castor and Pollux.

Pollux and Orion’s Rigel are rising within a few minutes of sunset.  Gemini, Orion, and the moon move westward, taking nearly all night to reach the western sky.

Mars, tonight’s fourth bright planet, is about 40° above the east horizon.  It is the brightest star in this region, following Venus and Jupiter in brightness.  The Red Planet continues the illusion of retrograde until the 12th.  This evening it is 8.5° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.

The four planets return to the evening sky again tomorrow evening.  The quartet appears in the sky simultaneously until the end of the month when Saturn disappears into bright evening twilight.

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