January 20, 2023: Mercury is visible in low in the southeastern sky. The Venus-Saturn conjunction occurs in two nights. Venus closes in.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:13 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:51 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: 1:08 UT, 11:04 UT, 20:59 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.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Forty-five minutes before sunup, elusive Mercury is nearly 7° above the southeastern horizon. The planet rises 90 minutes before the sun. Through the 27th, the planet rises at least at this time interval.
Find a clear, unobstructed horizon looking toward the southeast. Use a binocular to initially locate the planet.
Notice that red-orange Antares, the Scorpion’s heart – over 15° up in the south-southeast, is nearly 30° to the upper right of Mercury.
Altair, the brightest star in Aquila and 15° up in the east, is nearly 35° to the upper left of the planet. Mercury is brighter than both stars.
Two nights before its conjunction with Saturn, brilliant Venus is nearly 10° up in the west-southwest at 45 minutes after sunset. The Evening Star is 2.2° to the lower right of the dimmer Ringed Wonder. For the next few nights look each clear evening for this pair after sunset.
Venus moves faster eastward than all the planets except for Mercury. Venus easily overtakes and passes the outer planets. It moves about twice Jupiter’s eastward speed and nearly 10 times Saturn’s eastward pace.
Bright Jupiter, halfway up in the south-southwest and over 40° to the upper left of Venus, is the next bright planet target. Venus moves past the Jovian Giant on March 1st.
Before the spectacular conjunction with Jupiter, Venus passes Neptune on February 15th. A binocular is needed to see the modern solar system model’s farthest planet from the sun.
Mars, the fourth bright planet visible tonight, is over 50° above the east-southeast horizon after sunset. It is 8.4° to the upper left of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star. The Red Planet is slowly marching eastward after it resumed an eastward direction over a week ago. It passes Aldebaran on the 30th.
When the sky darkens further, the constellation’s dimmer stars are visible. Especially from an urban or suburban setting, use a binocular to see the Pleiades star cluster, the Hyades, and Zeta Tauri.
Looking westward with the binocular, put Venus and Saturn in the same field of view. They fit easily and shine against a starfield in eastern Capricornus. Venus is 1.0° to the upper right of Nashira while Saturn is 1.5° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi. Watch Venus close in tomorrow evening.
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