February 27, 2023: Brilliant Venus approaches Jupiter, two nights before their conjunction. The moon passes close to Mars near midnight.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:29 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:38 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.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
The moon is at the evening half-full phase (First Quarter) at 2:06 a.m. CST.
Mercury and Saturn are technically morning planets, rising before daybreak, but they are bathed in bright morning twilight. Mercury, heading toward superior conjunction, rises about twenty-five minutes before sunup. Saturn follows less than 10 minutes later.
Mercury is moving toward the year’s best evening appearance during April. Saturn continues to slowly climb into the morning sky, make its first appearance before sunrise about the time of the equinox.
The Venus-Jupiter conjunction occurs in two evenings. This evening the gap is 2.2°!
At forty-five minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is nearly 20° above the west-southwest horizon with Jupiter to its upper left.
This evening, the night’s two brightest starlike bodies appear close together in the sky. While the two planets appear close together, Jupiter is over four times farther away than Venus. Even through a binocular, the two planets appear as stars, although up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons can appear as pinpoints of light next to the solar system’s largest planet.
The globe of the planets is revealed through a telescope. The Venusian surface is hidden by a thick veil of clouds that insulates the planet’s 900° F temperature. Tonight, the planet shows a phase 87% illuminated, an evening gibbous. With Jupiter, a telescope reveals the planet’s colorful cloud tops and long-lived atmospheric disturbances, like the Great Red Spot. The storm does not come into view tonight for sky watchers in mid-America.
As the sky darkens further, the moon, 57% illuminated, is high in the south, 2.0° to the right of Mars that is marching eastward in Taurus near Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn.
At the midnight hour approaches, the lunar orb passes 0.7° north of the Red Planet. This is best viewed through a binocular or spotting scope.
The moon covers or occults Mars from the Arctic regions. This is the third of five lunar occultations of Mars that are visible across our planet this year.
- 2023, October 12: Bright Morning Planets Bookend Stellar SpectacularOctober 12, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus and Jupiter bracket the Milky Way’s bright Orion region.
- 2023, October 11: Morning Earthshine, LeoOctober 11, 2023: The morning’s thin lunar crescent displays earthshine as it appears near the constellation Leo.
- 2023, October 10: Morning Venus-Moon-Regulus Gathering, Venus-Saturn OppositionOctober 10, 2023: This morning Venus, the crescent moon, and Regulus gather in the eastern sky for a beautiful celestial display. Venus and Saturn are at opposition today.
- 2023, October 9: Venus-Regulus Conjunction, Morning Crescent MoonOctober 9, 2023: The Venus-Regulus conjunction occurs this morning. The morning crescent moon is above Venus during twilight.
- 2023, October 8: Celestial Barnyard, Convergence at RegulusOctober 8, 2023: The moon is visible with a celestial barnyard during morning twilight. Venus and the lunar crescent head for a celestial gathering in two mornings.