January 17, 2023: The morning crescent appears near the forehead of Scorpius. After sundown, Venus approaches Saturn as their conjunction approaches.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:15 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:47 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.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot’s transit times, when it is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 3:37 UT, 13:33 UT, 23:28 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 crescent moon, 25% illuminated, is nearly 25° above the south-southeast horizon, 5.5° to the upper right of Dschubba – meaning “the scorpion’s forehead.” This is clearly a precarious place – within the grasp of the pincers – Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali – and near the mouth.
Antares – representing the Scorpion’s heart – is about 15° above the horizon and over 12° to the lower left of the lunar orb.
This is a morning to look for earthshine on the moon – reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that gently illuminates the lunar night.
Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is low in the east-southeast, about 30° to the lower left of Antares. The speedy planet is over 5° above the horizon and brighter than the Scorpion’s heart. Find a clear horizon to see the planet. Initially, a binocular helps locate the innermost world.
Forty-five minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is about 10° above the west-southwest horizon. It is closing in on Saturn, 5.6° to the upper left. The Ringed Wonder is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, halfway up in the south-southwest and 45° to the upper left of Venus.
Venus passes Saturn on the 22nd. The Evening Star cuts the distance to Saturn about 1° each evening.
After the conjunction with Saturn, Venus approaches and passes Jupiter on March 1st.
At the same hour, Mars is over halfway up in the east-southeast, 8.5° to the upper left of Aldebaran. The planet is slowly moving eastward, passing the star on the 30th.
Fifteen minutes later, the stellar background appears behind Mars. The Pleiades star cluster is 8.0° to the upper right of Mars. The “V” of Taurus, made by the Hyades star cluster and Aldebaran, is to the lower right. The Bull’s horns are marked by Zeta Tauri and Elnath.
Use a binocular to spot Saturn and Venus in the starfield in eastern Capricornus. Saturn, in the upper left part of the field, is 1.4° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi and 0.6° to the upper left of 45 Capricorni (45 Cap on the chart). Venus is in the lower right of the field, 0.4° to the upper left of Iota Capricorni (ι Cap).
At 5:28 p.m. CST, during twilight in Chicago, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in its prime observing place in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. Sky watchers farther eastward see the planet slightly lower, but in a darker sky.
- 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.