February 15, 2023: The morning moon, showing earthshine, is with Ophiuchus in the south-southeast. Brilliant Venus is east of Neptune through a binocular.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:47 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:24 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: 2:51 UT, 12:47 UT, 22:42 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:
The morning moon, 30% illuminated, is less than 20° up in the south-southeast before sunrise, 10.0° to the lower left of Antares, the Scorpion’s brightest star.
The lunar orb is in front of Ophiuchus. The astronomical zodiac has more than 12 constellations. The sun is in front of Scorpius for seven days, Ophiuchus, 18 days, and Sagittarius, 32 days.
The southern part of Ophiuchus is farther south than Antares.
Currently, Jupiter is moving eastward in Cetus, and on occasion, the planets and moon move through Orion.
This morning the lunar crescent is 10.5° above the cat’s eye, the two stars of the Scorpion’s tail, Lesath – “the scorpion’s sting” – and Shaula – meaning “the cocked-up part of the scorpion’s tail.”
Look for Earthshine in the moon’s night portion. This gentle light is reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land. With this phase a binocular may help with the view. Capture the scene with a tripod mounted camera with exposures of a few seconds or less.
Mercury is racing toward its superior conjunction later next month. This morning it rises 51 minutes before sunup. When it is high enough to see, the bright twilight in the east-southeast washes out the view.
Tomorrow Saturn is at its solar conjunction on the far arc of its solar orbit. For Mercury and Venus, we use superior and inferior to distinguish between solar conjunctions when the planet is on the far side of the sun and when it is between Earth and the sun, respectively. The other planets only have one conjunction with the sun.
Venus’ approach to Jupiter continues in the west-southwest after sundown. At forty-five minutes after the sun sets, brilliant Venus is over 15° above the horizon with Jupiter 14.3° to its upper left. Their conjunction occurs on March 1st.
Jupiter is moving eastward in Cetus. It moves back into Pisces in four evenings.
This evening through a binocular, Venus is 0.6° to the upper left of Neptune. The Evening Star passed closely to the more distant planet today as viewed from central Asia. They were close enough to fit into the same telescope field of view.
From the Americas tonight, Venus has stepped beyond Neptune. At this level of twilight, Neptune might be visible through a binocular. Place Venus at the center of the field of view and look for a dim star to the lower right of the brilliant planet.
This evening Venus and Neptune are a fraction of a degree closer than last night.
As the sky darkens, Venus and Neptune are lower in the sky, moving toward a thicker level of air that blurs the view. Make several attempts to see Neptune before it is too low in the sky.
Farther eastward, Mars is high in the south-southeast, marching eastward in front of Taurus. Its nightly change is easy to observe. It is 9.8° to the upper left of Aldebaran and 7.6° to the right of Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn.
Mars passes Elnath on March 9th. It passes between the horns two nights later. On the 14th it passes Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.
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