February 14, 2023: Before daybreak, the thick crescent moon is near Antares. After sundown, Venus moves past Neptune during the next two evenings.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:48 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:22 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, 16:54 UT; Feb. 15, 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.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
This morning, the thick crescent moon, 41% illuminated, is over 20° above the southern horizon at an hour before sunup. The lunar orb is near the Scorpion’s heart, Antares, and 1.9° to the upper right of Al Niyat, known as the artery. Sometimes, Tau Scorpii (τ Sco on the chart), to the lower left, goes by the same name. It’s just a coincidence that the moon is near the heart on Valentine’s day.
Antares is similar to Orion’s Betelgeuse. Nearing the end of their stellar cycles, they are very bright, extremely large, and cool, compared to the sun.
Scorpius resembles its namesake. The Scorpion’s claws, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali reach westward. The forehead, Dschubba, is to the upper right of Antares. The critter’s body then curls toward the horizon and swings back into the sky, resembling a fish hook. The “scorpion’s sting” is Lesath. Shaula, meaning “the cocked-up part of the scorpion’s tail,” is nearby. Together the two stars are sometimes called the “Cat’s eyes.”
Mercury, the lone bright planet west of the sun, rises fifty-three minutes before sunrise and as daybreak approaches, the speedy planet is immersed in bright morning twilight. The conditions are unfavorable to find it.
Similarly, Saturn is nearing its solar conjunction, setting only a minute after the sun. The conjunction occurs in two days. The planet begins a slow climb into the morning sky, first emerging from bright morning twilight about the time of the equinox.
Brilliant Venus and Jupiter continue their planetary dance in the west-southwest after sundown. The Evening Star is over 15° above the horizon at 45 minutes after sundown. It is quickly overtaking bright Jupiter, 15.4° to the upper left of the brilliant planet.
Jupiter is slowly moving eastward in front of Cetus.
In about a week, Venus moves to within 10° of Jupiter, leading up to their March 1st conjunction. Afterward, Venus is east of Jupiter and within 10° through March 11th.
Through a binocular this evening, Venus is near very dim Neptune. This is a challenging view because of the level of twilight.
Place Venus in the center of the field and look carefully for Neptune 0.6° to the upper left of the Evening Star. Neptune is much dimmer and might be washed out by twilight.
Tomorrow evening from central Asia, the two planets are very close together in the sky and easily fit into a telescope’s field of view. In the Americas tomorrow evening, Venus is about the same distance from Neptune as this evening, but to the upper left of the distant world.
Farther eastward, Mars is marching eastward in front of Taurus. Find the Red Planet above the bright winter stars in the south-southeast. By an hour after sundown, many of the dimmer stars are visible as twilight fades.
Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star, is 7.3° to the upper right of Mars, while Elnath is 9.3° to the left of the planet.
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