February 10, 2023: The morning gibbous moon is between Spica and Porrima. Three bright planets are visible after sundown. Through a binocular Venus approaches fainter Neptune.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:53 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:17 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: 3:41 UT, 13:37 UT, 23:32 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 gibbous moon, 81% illuminated, is about one third of the way up in the south between Spica – Virgo’s brightest star – and Porrima. The lunar orb is nearly 11° to the right of Spica and over 3° to the left of Porrima.
Mercury is leaving the morning sky, rising about an hour before daybreak. It is lost in the brilliance of the approaching sunrise.
Saturn, like Mercury, is bathed in bright sunlight. It sets only nineteen minutes after sundown. In less than a week, it is at solar conjunction on the far arc of its orbit. Then it first appears in the morning sky about the time of the equinox.
Venus and Jupiter continue their slow dance in the west-southwest after sundown. Brilliant Venus, the brightest starlike body in the sky, is about 15° up in the west-southwest at 45 minutes after sundown. Each night it appears closer to Jupiter, 19.5° to the Evening Star’s upper left. The gap between them closes about one degree each night.
Venus overtakes Jupiter on March 1st in a close conjunction. Before Venus reaches Jupiter, it passes Neptune in five nights. The Venus-Neptune conjunction is a challenge to see because the planets are shining through evening twilight and Neptune is not very bright, over 52,000 times dimmer than Venus. Even in a very dark location without outdoor lighting, Neptune is not visible without an optical assist of a binocular or telescope. In comparison Jupiter is about five times dimmer than Venus.
Venus and Neptune are in the same binocular field of view. The separation is 5.4°. Place Venus near the lower right edge of the field of view. Neptune is to the upper left edge, if it is visible at this level of twilight. Look again during the next few evenings as Venus closes in.
At 5:32 p.m. CST from Chicago, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. This time is not long after sunset. While the long-lived storm may be visible from the central states, the view is better farther eastward. Satellite Io is to the west of the planet and the moon’s shadow is projected on the cloud tops near the Red Spot.
At the middle of twilight, Mars is high in the southeast, to the upper left of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star. Return to the sky in about an hour to see Mars against the dimmer stars of the Bull.
The Red Planet is marching eastward toward Elnath, the northern horn. That conjunction occurs in about a month. Watch the planet open a gap with Aldebaran and close it with the horn star. This evening Mars is 8.5° to the upper left of Aldebaran and 10.4° to the upper right of Elnath.
Six hours after sundown and nearing midnight, the gibbous moon is about 10° above the east-southeast horizon. It is 2.9° to the upper left of Spica. Look again in the morning to see how far the moon moves from this time.
February 25, 2023: After sundown, Venus closes on Jupiter as their close conjunction approaches. The crescent moon nears Mars and Taurus in the southern sky.Keep reading
February 24, 2023: The evening moon, showing earthshine, appears above converging planets, Venus and Jupiter. Mars marches eastward in Taurus, high in the south.Keep reading
February 23, 2023: After sundown, three bright planets and the crescent moon are easily visible. The bright winter stars of the Orion region are in the southern sky after sundown.Keep reading