2023, February 24: Evening Moon, Planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Mars


February 24, 2023: The evening moon, showing earthshine, appears above converging planets, Venus and Jupiter.  Mars marches eastward in Taurus, high in the south.

Photo Caption – 2016, August 27: The Venus-Jupiter conjunction


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:34 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:35 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. 25, 1:12. 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

Mercury and Saturn are technically morning planets, but they are immersed in bright morning twilight.  The planet closest to the sun rises about 30 minutes before the sun, while the Ringed Wonder rises only 10 minutes before sunup.  Both are impossible to view by easy means as they are lost in the glare of approaching daybreak.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, February 24: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are in the west-southwest after sundown.

After sundown, Venus continues to overtake Jupiter in the west-southwest.  At forty-five minutes after sundown, the Evening Star is nearly 20° above the horizon.

Bright Jupiter is 5.2° to the upper left of Venus. Both are easily in the same binocular field of view.

Jupiter is slowly moving eastward in front of a dim Pisces starfield, washed out by the blush of evening twilight.

In overtaking Jupiter, Venus steps eastward at about 1° each evening, faster than Jupiter’s eastward trek.

Venus passes Jupiter on March 1st in a close conjunction.  Meetings of these two planets occur about every two years, although sometimes this occurs when the planets are seen too close to the sun.  That occurs at the May 23, 2024 conjunction.  After next week’s meeting, the next visible Venus- Jupiter conjunction occurs August 12, 2025, before sunrise.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 24: The crescent moon is about halfway up in the west-southwest near Hamal after sundown.

This evening, the crescent moon, 27% illuminated, is over halfway up in the west-southwest, above the brightest evening planets.  It is 10.0° to the lower left of Hamal – meaning “the full-grown ram” – the brightest star in Aries.

2021, January 15: 2021, January 15: The thin waxing moon with earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s features gently illuminates the lunar night.

This is another pretty evening crescent that has earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s features, gently illuminating the lunar night.  This effect occurs tomorrow evening as well, but it quickly fades when the moon approaches First Quarter phase on the 27th.

Chart Caption – 2023, February 24: Mars marches eastward in Taurus, appearing between Elnath and Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau).

As the sky darkens further, Mars is south with Taurus.  It marches eastward toward Elnath.  Notice that it is passing between that star and Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau on the chart) that is in the “V” of Taurus.  Use a binocular to locate Epsilon, but the two stars are too far apart to view in one binocular field.

This evening Mars is 10.9° to the upper left of Aldebaran, the pattern’s brightest star, and 6.1° to the lower right of Elnath.

Photo Caption – This Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet’s trademark Great Red Spot, and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years. The colors, and their changes, provide important clues to ongoing processes in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

At 7:12 p.m. CST, when Jupiter is 15° above the horizon in Chicago, the planet’s Great Red Spot is center stage in the southern hemisphere through a telescope.  At this altitude – height above the horizon – Earth’s atmosphere blurs and makes the planet’s image dance in an eyepiece, like looking across a hot pavement on a sunny day. Jupiter’s moon Io is silhouetted against the clouds on the eastern edge of the planet.

Sky watchers farther westward have a better opportunity to see the atmospheric feature and large moon higher in the sky.



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