February 6, 2023: The bright moon occults a star in Leo. Venus continues to dance toward Jupiter after sundown. Mars marches eastward in front of Taurus.
PODCAST FOR THIS ARTICLE
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:58 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:12 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: 0:22 UT, 10:28 UT, 20:14 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:
The bright moon, 99% illuminated, ends the night of the Snow moon nearly 20° above the western horizon, at an hour before sunrise. While the moon’s radiance overwhelms the dimmer stars in the sky this morning, it is near Leo – the westward-facing Lion.
The lunar orb is 6.3° to the right of Regulus and 3.8° from Eta Leonis (η Leo on the chart). Later today, during daylight in the Americas, the moon covers or occults the star for sky watchers across Australia, southeast Asia, India, and the Arabian Peninsula. Use a binocular or spotting scope to see the occultation. (See this resource for details about your location.)
Mercury is fading into bright morning twilight. Rising 72 minutes before sunrise, the speedy planet is less than 6° up in the southeast, thirty minutes later. With no bright stars in the area, the planet is there but immersed in the approaching dawn’s light.
Brilliant Venus continues to approach Jupiter leading up to their March 1st conjunction. At forty-five minutes after sundown, find the Evening Star nearly 15° above the west-southwest horizon. Its brilliance competes with the lights on low-flying airplanes.
Jupiter is 35° up in the southwest, nearly 24° to the upper left of Venus. The Jovian Giant is slowly moving eastward in Cetus, the Sea Monster.
The constellations represent celestial figures. Additionally, they are patches of sky, like patches on a quilt or counties in a state. Their shapes vary and are not the same size. The ecliptic, the plane of the solar system is near a corner where Cetus meets Pisces. The planets do not move exactly on that plane, but are near it. The event of a planet or the moon passing through Cetus is not rare.
With Jupiter only one degree below the ecliptic, it is in front of Cetus through the 18th when it moves back into Pisces again.
On the 15th Venus passes 0.6° from Neptune. Use a binocular to see Venus with dim Neptune.
Beginning the 20th, Venus is within 10° of Jupiter as the gap between the planets closes about one degree each evening.
Mars is high in the southeastern sky at this hour, to the upper left of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star. The Red Planet is marching eastward toward a conjunction with Elnath, also known as Beta Tauri, next month.
Two hours after sunset, the bright moon is about 10° up in the east, 4.6° to the lower left of Regulus.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Helical RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.