2023, February 4: Cancer Moon, Venus Dances Toward Jupiter


February 4, 2023: The bright moon is in front of Cancer between Pollux and Regulus.  In the evening Venus continues to dance toward Jupiter before their March 1st conjunction.

Chart Caption -2012, July 21: Brilliant Venus, Jupiter, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades rise into the morning sky.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:00 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:10 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: 8:39 UT, 18:35 UT; Feb. 5, 4:31 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.

Winter’s mid-point occurs today 3:12 a.m. CST.  The season is 88 days, 23 hours, and 36 minutes long.

After today, sunrise occurs before 7 a.m. CST in Chicago until December 2nd.  Daylight’s length is ten hours, ten minutes.

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, February 4: The bright moon is low in the west-northwest before sunrise, near the Gemini Twins.

At an hour before daybreak, the bright moon, 98% illuminated and over 24 hours before the official Full moon phase, is less than 10° above the west-northwest horizon and 7.9° to the upper left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins. The lunar orb is nearly 30° to the lower right of Regulus – meaning “the prince” – that makes the heart of Leo.

Thirty minutes later, as the moon sets in the west-northwest, Mercury is about 7° above the southeast horizon.  Find this planet with a binocular.  It rises seventy-six minutes before sunup and loses about two minutes of rising time each morning.  For most purposes the planet is not visible, but for the Mercury-enthusiast, it can be found.  The planet is heading for its best evening appearance of the year during spring.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, February 4: After sundown, the moon is to the lower left of the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux.

Forty-five minutes after sunset, the bright moon, 99% illuminated, is less than 20° up in the east-northeast, nearly 15° to the lower left of Pollux.

The lunar orb is in front of Cancer’s stars.  The constellation is dim and it does not have any bright star in its boundaries.  All its stars are much dimmer than those in the Big Dipper. The Beehive star cluster is part of the constellation.  Tonight, the moon is within the same binocular field of view as the cluster, but moonlight washes out the view.  Binocular views of the pair are much better when the moon’s phase is a crescent or half-full.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 4: Mars is high in the southeast near Aldebaran.

At this hour, Mars is high in the southeast, 8.2° to the upper left of Aldebaran.  The Red Planet is marching eastward in front of a Taurus background, heading toward a March 9th conjunction with the Bull’s northern horn, Elnath.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 4: Venus closes the wide gap to Jupiter in the west-southwest after sundown.

The show is in the western sky with Venus taking dance steps toward Jupiter each evening.  The Evening Star is about 15° up in the west after sundown, while bright Jupiter is less than halfway up in the sky above the southwest horizon, over 25° to the upper left of Venus.

Beginning on the 20th, Venus closes to within 10° of Jupiter, leading up to their March 1st conjunction.  This is a slow-moving, easily observed conjunction of the two brightest starlike bodies in the sky.  The Venus closes the gap about 1° each evening.

Venus-conjunctions occur every few years, although some are in the sun’s glare.  After the March 1st conjunction the next one that’s easy to see occurs during 2025.



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