2023, January 11:  Lion Moon, Evening Planet Dance


January 11, 2023: Before sunrise, the gibbous moon seems to appear in the belly of the Lion.  During the early evening hours, the four bright planets continue their dance.

Photo Caption – 2021, November 28: Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter are lined up in the southwestern sky as if they are in a parade.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:17 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:40 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.

The sunrise time is moving earlier every few days.  By month’s end the sun rises at 7:04 a.m. CST in Chicago.

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. 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 11: Before sunrise, the waning gibbous moon seems to appear in the Lion’s belly.

One hour before sunrise, the bright waning gibbous moon, 83% illuminated, is 40° above the west-southwest horizon.  Is seems to be in the belly of Leo – the westward-facing celestial Lion.

The constellation is made by a backwards question mark or sickle and a triangle.  Regulus is the brightest star and Denebola is the tail.

Mercury is making its way into the morning sky, rising 48 minutes before the sun.  It becomes visible through a binocular in a few mornings to enthusiastic Mercury watchers.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, January 11: Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter are lined up in the western sky after sundown.

The bright four-planet display is slowly beginning to reach its conclusion.  Saturn disappears into bright evening twilight near month’s end.  This evening the Ringed Wonder is 12.7° to the upper left of brilliant Venus at 45 minutes after sunset.

Find a clear horizon looking southwest.  A hilltop or elevated structure allows for an unobstructed view toward the planets.

Venus steps eastward over 1° from night to night.  It is quickly overtaking Saturn’s eastward slow plod.  Venus passes Saturn on the 22nd.

Bright Jupiter is halfway up in the south-southwest, over 50° to the upper left of Venus.  A spectacular Venus-Jupiter conjunction occurs on March 1st.

Chart Caption – 2023, January 11: Mars is in the eastern sky, near Aldebaran, after sunset.

Farther eastward this evening, Mars is nearly halfway up in the sky in the east.  It is the brightest “star” in this part of the celestial sphere.  The Red Planet is 8.5° to the upper left of Aldebaran.

The illusion of retrograde ends tomorrow night for Mars.  Mars and other planets beyond Earth’s orbit appear to move westward against the sidereal backdrop when the line of sight from Earth to the planet moves westward against the stars.  These events occur when Earth passes an outer planet.

Chart Caption – 2023, January 11: In a darker sky, Mars appears in front of Taurus.

When the sky is darker as twilight fades, Taurus, the stars behind Mars, comes into view.  The Hyades star cluster and Aldebaran make the head of the Bull.  The horns are dotted by Elnath and Zeta Tauri. The Pleiades star cluster rides on the animal’s back.

Chart Caption – 2023, January 11: Through a binocular Saturn appears near Deneb Algedi and 45 Capricorni (45 Cap).

Back in the west, use a binocular to see Saturn against the starfield.  The planet is in a starfield in eastern Capricornus.  It is 1.4° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi and 0.2° to the lower left of 45 Capricorni (45 Cap on the chart).  If clear skies prevail tomorrow evening, note Saturn’s place compared to these stars.



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