2023, January 27: Morning Mercury, Bright Evening Planets


January 27, 2023: Mercury is in the southeast before daybreak.  After sundown, Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, Moon, and Mars are along an arc from west-southwest to east-southeast.

Photo Caption – 2019, December 10: Venus passes Saturn.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:08 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:59 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.

Beginning tomorrow, the sun sets after 5 p.m. in Chicago.  This does not occur again until Daylight Saving Time ends on November 5th.  On that evening, sunset occurs at 4:40 p.m. CST.

Today, daylight’s length approaches 10 hours.  This occurs in four days.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot’s transit times, when it is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 1:57 UT, 11:53 UT, 21:49 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 27: Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest after sunset.

Mercury is the lone bright planet in the morning sky.  It rises over 90 minutes before sunup, and 45 minutes later, it is nearly 7° up in the southeast.  The planet is brighter than all stars in the eastern sky.

Find a clear view toward the southeast.  An elevated structure or hilltop provides a better view of the horizon.  Use a binocular to initially locate it, but once found it is easy to spot without the optical assist.

Two bright stars are in the region.  Reddish Antares is to Mercury’s upper right – about 20° above the horizon – in the south-southeast.  Blue-white Altair is about the same altitude as Antares, but it is in the east.

Mercury reaches its greatest elongation, where the planet appears farthest from the sun, in two mornings.  Then it quickly moves back into bright sunlight and toward an evening appearance, with another greatest elongation, during April.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, January 27: The moon and Jupiter are in the southern sky after sundown.

After sunset, the nearly half-full moon, is high in the south-southwest.  The moon is at the First Quarter phase tomorrow morning at 9:19 a.m. CST.  It does not rise tomorrow until nearly two hours after it is half full.

This evening, Jupiter is “that bright star” to the lower left of the lunar orb. The Jovian Giant, nearing the border with Cetus, is slowly moving eastward against a dim Pisces starfield.

Chart Caption – 2023, January 27: Look toward the southwest for Venus, Jupiter and Saturn during evening twilight.

Look farther toward to the west-southwest for Venus, nearly 15° above the horizon and over 34° to Jupiter’s lower right.

Venus is quickly stepping eastward, passing Jupiter on March 1st.

For accurate comparisons, two celestial objects should be near each other in the sky, but the brightness difference between Venus and Jupiter is easy to see. The Evening Star is nearly five times brighter than Jupiter, the next brightest starlike feature in the sky this evening.

Venus passed Saturn five nights ago.  Venus is 5.7° to the upper left of the Ringed Wonder.

Saturn is slowly sliding into brighter twilight.  This evening, the planet is nearly 7° above the west-southwest horizon.

Chart Caption – 2023, January 27: Mars is in front of Taurus in the eastern sky after sundown.

Mars is the fourth bright planet in the early evening sky.  It is high in the eastern sky in front of Taurus.  This region of the sky has many bright stars, including Sirius that is nearly 10° above the east-southeast horizon at one hour after sundown.

The Red Planet is slowly marching eastward toward a wide conjunction with Aldebaran – the brightest star in the constellation – in three evenings.



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