2023, February 2: Goodbye, Mercury!  Gemini Moon, Evening Planets


February 2, 2023: Mercury slips into brighter morning twilight.  The moon is near the Gemini Twins.  Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are visible after sunset.

Photo Caption – 2020, December 3: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon is over 30° in altitude in the west. It is near central Gemini beneath the Twins, Castor and Pollux.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:02 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:07 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: 6:59 UT, 16:55 UT; Feb. 3, 2:51 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:

Chart Caption – 2023, February 2: Mercury is low in the southeast before sunrise.

Morning Sky

This morning, it’s “Goodbye” to Mercury.  At forty-five minutes before sunup, the solar system’s speedy planet is about 5° above the southeast horizon, over 30° to the lower right of the star Aquila.  The planet is beyond its greatest elongation and moving back into bright twilight.  The planet is bright, but low in the sky and very difficult to find in the bright blush of morning twilight.  It can be followed into brighter twilight with a binocular, but without the moon or another bright star within the same binocular field of view, finding it is hit or miss.

Mercury reaches its superior conjunction on the far side of its solar orbit from Earth on March 17th.  Then it moves into the evening sky for its best evening appearance of the year.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, February 2: Venus and Jupiter are in the western sky after sundown.

Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are in the evening sky along with the bright moon.

Venus is slowly closing a gap to Jupiter, leading up to their spectacular conjunction on March 1st.  At forty-five minutes after sundown this evening, find the Evening Star nearly 15° above the west-southwest horizon.  It is the brightest star in the sky and its brilliance competes with lights on low-flying airplanes.

Bright Jupiter is nearly 40° up in the southwest and nearly 28° to the upper left of Jupiter.  The Jovian Giant is moving slowly eastward in front of a dim Pisces starfield, near the Cetus border.

Venus moves about 1° closer to Jupiter each evening, that’s about the diameter of two full moons.  Beginning on the 20th, Venus moves to within 10° of Jupiter, bringing the two brightest starlike objects in the night sky within a close proximity of the other.  Then watch Venus close the gap, pass Jupiter, and move farther eastward.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 2: The moon is near Castor and Pollux after sunset.

Farther eastward, the bright moon, 93% illuminated, is less than 40° up in the east.  Look for Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, to the lunar orb’s lower left.  Castor is 8.5° to the lower left of the moon and Pollux is 4.5° to the lower right of its twin.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 2: The moon is near Aldebaran, the bright star in Taurus, after sunset.

Mars, high in the east-southeast, is over 30° to the upper right of the gibbous moon.  It is marching eastward against Taurus and 8.2° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star.  Mars is moving toward Elnath – the Bull’s northern horn.  Mars’ conjunction with the star occurs on March 9th.



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