January 8, 2023: The bright moon is in the west before sunrise. Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are along an arc from east to southwest after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:37 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: 1:09 UT, 11:05 UT, 21:00 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:
An hour before sunrise, the bright moon, 98% illuminated, is about 25° above the west horizon. It is in front of Cancer’s dim stars, 10.9° to the upper left of Procyon and 26.1° to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.
Largely, Cancer is the seemingly empty space between Pollux and Regulus. This morning, the bright moon whitewashes the dimmer stars of the constellation.
Mercury is speeding into the morning sky, after yesterday’s inferior conjunction. Not yet visible easily before sunrise, the planet rises 21 minutes before sunup. Enthusiastic Mercury watchers can find it in a week, about 4° above the east-southeast horizon at 45 minutes before sunup through a binocular.
Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are strung across the sky from southwest to the east during the early evening. Begin at forty-five minutes after sunset by finding Venus less than 10° above the southwest horizon. Find a clear horizon in that direction.
The Evening Star is quickly stepping eastward, moving toward Saturn, the dimmest of the four planets. Venus is 15.9° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder. Venus overtakes and passes Saturn on the 22nd.
Jupiter is that “bright star” halfway up in the south-southwest at this hour. After the conjunction with Saturn, Venus moves toward Jupiter, passing the Jovian Giant on March 1st. From February 20th through March 11th, Venus and Jupiter are within 10° of each other. The two brightest planets together make a spectacular pairing.
Mars is farther eastward, over 40° above the eastern horizon. It is retrograding in front of Taurus. This continues until the 12th.
This evening, the Red Planet is 8.5° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star.
By two hours after sunset, the bright moon is above the horizon in the east-northeast.
With the moon moving farther eastward, it rises later each evening, allowing for views of dimmer stars. Tomorrow, we’ll check the dimmer background stars with Saturn and Mars.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.