2023, February 12: Morning Moon Nearly Pinched, Venus Approaches, Neptune, Jupiter


February 12, 2023: The morning’s slightly gibbous moon approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw.  After sunset, Venus approaches Neptune and Jupiter.  Mars is in a starry field.

Photo Caption – 2019, January 3: Brilliant Venus, Jupiter and the waning crescent moon.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:51 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:20 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: 5:20 UT, 15:16 UT; Feb 13, 1:12 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:

Morning Sky

The slightly gibbous moon, 62% illuminated, is over 30° above the southern horizon at an hour before sunrise.  The morning half-full moon, Last Quarter, occurs tomorrow at 10:01 a.m. CST. 

This morning, the lunar orb is over 15° to the left (east) of Spica – the brightest star in Virgo – and approaching Zubenelgenubi, one of the classic Scorpion’s claws.  The second claw, Zubeneschamali is higher in the sky.  Today these two stars are the brightest in Libra.

Mercury’s retreat from the morning sky continues.  The planet is fairly bright, but it is lost in bright morning twilight in the east-southeast.  It rises 58 minutes before the sun, and about 30 minutes later, it is about 4° above the horizon.

Evening Sky

Saturn, setting only 10 minutes after sundown, is nearing its solar conjunction in four days.

Tonight’s highlight is Venus’ approach to bright Jupiter in the west-southwest.  Look about 45 minutes after sunset, when Venus is over 15° above the horizon and 17.4° to the lower right of Jupiter.

The Evening Star is overtaking the Jovian Giant, passing by on March 1st.  Jupiter is slowly moving eastward in front of Cetus.

Venus is near dim Neptune and they are close together on the evenings of the 14th and 15th.  This is a challenging view with a binocular because of evening twilight.  This evening, the farthest planet in the modern solar system model, is 3.0° to the upper left of Venus.  The chart above shows Neptune about six times brighter than it is in the sky.  Take a look each clear evening.

Mars is high in the southeast at this hour, above winter’s bright stars.  Because of the concentration of bright stars in that part of the sky it might be a confusing scene.  Without the moon’s light, look for the Pleiades star cluster high in the south.  Mars is to the lower left.  For sky watchers with more outdoor lighting, look for Orion.  Mars is to the upper right of this famous pattern.

This congregation of bright stars appears a little farther westward each evening and Mars marches eastward compared to Aldebaran and Elnath, the Bull’s brightest stars.  This evening, the Red Planet is 8.7° to the upper left of Aldebaran and 9.8° to the upper right of Elnath.  Mars passes between the Bull’s horns next month.

For sky watchers with telescopes, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is center stage in the planet’s southern hemisphere at 7:12 p.m. CST from Chicago.  The planet is only 20° up in the west-southwest.  This altitude – height above the horizon – is not favorable for a good view because here Earth’s atmosphere tends to blur the image and make the image dance. These effects are what makes the stars twinkle.  For sky watchers farther westward in the US, the planet is higher and in clearer air.



Leave a ReplyCancel reply