February 16, 2023: Saturn is at conjunction today. The morning crescent moon is with Sagittarius, popularly known as the Teapot. The three bright outer planets are in the evening sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:45 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:25 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: 8:39 UT, 18:34 UT; Feb. 17, 4:30 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.
Saturn is at conjunction today on the far side of the sun on its planetary orbit. The sun’s light overwhelms the view. By about the time of the equinox, the Ringed Wonder climbs out of the bright blush of morning twilight into the eastern sky.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 20% illuminated, is about 10° above the southeast horizon with Sagittarius, the Archer. The constellation looks like a teapot and so the popular moniker for this stellar pattern.
The Teapot’s stars names indicate the traditional association with the celestial centaur. The archer’s bow, at the western edge of the pot, is dotted by Kaus Borealis, Kaus Media, and Kaus Australis, representing the northern part, the middle part, and the southern part. Alnasl is the arrow head.
On the east side of the Teapot, Ascella identifies the armpit. Two other stars, Phi Sagittarii (φ Sgr on the chart) and Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr), along with Nunki, complete the pattern.
This morning, the crescent moon is 1.4° to the upper left of Kaus Media. During the next 24 hours, the moon moves eastward compared to this starfield. From New Zealand, the moon covers Phi Sagittarii. Tomorrow morning, the crescent occults Tau Sagittarii from the Indian Ocean region across central Africa.
In the Americas tomorrow morning, the moon is near the horizon at this hour, 4.2° to the lower left of Tau.
This morning notice earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land, gently illuminating the lunar night. Capture the view with a tripod mounted camera and exposures up to a few seconds.
While Saturn is at solar conjunction, Mercury continues to slide into morning twilight, rising 48 minutes before sunup. When it is high enough in the sky for observing, the approaching sunrise whitewashes the sky including Mercury.
The evening planet dance with Venus and Jupiter continues in the western sky. At forty-five minutes after sundown, the Evening Star is over 15° above the west-southwest horizon. Bright Jupiter is 13.3° to the upper left of Venus.
Jupiter is slowly moving through Cetus toward Pisces, crossing the border in three nights.
Venus overtakes Jupiter on March 1st in a close conjunction. Beginning February 20th, Venus closes to within 10° of Jupiter. The two brightest starlike bodies are very close together in the sky, but millions of miles apart in space.
At mid-twilight, Venus and Neptune might be visible in the same binocular field. The planet might be whitewashed in the illuminated sky. If the sky is clear enough the dim planet might be visible.
Neptune is 1.8° to the lower right of Venus. Through the binocular, place Venus at the center. Neptune is to the lower right, about halfway to the edge of the field.
Farther eastward, Mars marches eastward in Taurus. When the sky is darker, the pattern is visible. Look for them high in the south-southeast about an hour after sunset.
The Red Planet is 9.2° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the constellation’s brightest star, and 8.6° to the lower right of Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn.
The constellation’s head is marked by a letter “V,” outlined by the Hyades star cluster and Aldebaran. The Pleiades star cluster, to the upper right of Mars, rides on the animal’s back.
Elnath and Zeta Tauri dot the Bull’s horns.
In the eastward march, Mars passes Elnath on March 9th and Zeta Tauri five nights later. On the way to the second conjunction, it moves between the horns on the 11th.
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