2023, February 1: Mercury, Morning, Three Bright Planets, Evening


February 1, 2023: Mercury is visible in the southeast before sunrise.  Brilliant Venus and Bright Jupiter are in the southwestern sky after sundown, while Mars and the moon are in the east.

Photo caption 2019, November 25: Venus is one day past its conjunction with Jupiter.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:03 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:06 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: 1:12 UT, 11:08 UT, 21:04 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.

The sun is in the sky for more than 10 hours each day.  Daylight gains 80 minutes by month’s end.

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, February 1: Mercury is in the southeastern sky before sunrise.

Mercury is leaving the southeastern morning sky before sunrise.  It is heading toward a solar conjunction on March 17th and then to its best evening appearance of the year.

This morning at 45 minutes before sunup, the planet is over 5° above the southeast horizon.  It is bright, but low in the sky.  Find the planet with a binocular then look for it without the optical assistance.  We will say “Goodbye!” to the planet soon.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, February 1: Evening Star Venus and bright Jupiter are in the southwest after sundown.

Three bright planets are in the evening sky after sundown.  Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are in the southwestern sky at 45 minutes after the sun sets. They are the two brightest starlike objects in the sky tonight, considerably brighter than Sirius, the brightest star.

Find Venus nearly 15° above the west-southwest horizon.  Do not confuse it for lights on an airplane.

Bright Jupiter is nearly 40° up in the southwest, nearly 29° to the upper left of Venus.

Venus passes Jupiter on March 1st.  From February 20th through March 11th, the planets are within 10° of each other.  From thumb knuckle to pinky knuckle, your fist covers about 10° when your arm is extended. The two brightest starlike bodies appear close together for several nights before and after the conjunction.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 1: Mars and the gibbous moon are in the eastern sky after sunset.

Farther eastward, the bright moon, 88% illuminated, is halfway up in the east, at the feet of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins.  The lunar orb is over 20° to the lower left of Mars.

The Red Planet is marching eastward in Taurus, 8.2° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star.  With this bright moonlight, the Bull’s dimmer stars are difficult to see.  Perhaps Aldebaran and Elnath – the northern horn – are the only two stars visible without a binocular.



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