February 28, 2023: One night before their close conjunction, Venus approaches Jupiter in the west-southwest after sundown. The moon is near the horns of Taurus with Mars nearby.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:27 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:40 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: 8:38 UT, 18:34 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 morning sky has two bright planets, but they are hidden by bright early morning twilight. Mercury – heading for its superior conjunction next month – rises about 20 minutes before sunup, followed by Saturn a few minutes later. This already occurs during bright twilight and by the time they are high enough to see, the sun rises.
Mercury passes Saturn in two mornings, when they are less than 15° from the sun and only rising about 15 minutes before the sun. Technically, it is a conjunction, but it is not visible by conventional means.
After Mercury’s superior conjunction on March 17th, it jumps into the evening sky, passing Jupiter on the 27th.
Saturn continues to rise earlier each morning, first appearing higher in the eastern sky and before the occurrence of bright twilight around the time of the equinox.
Venus is only 1.3° to the lower right of Jupiter this evening. Tomorrow Venus passes the Jovian Giant in a close conjunction. The two planets will not “seem to merge into a single point.” They’ll be separated by a distance slightly larger than the diameter of the Full moon.
Forty-five minutes after sundown, Venus is about 20° above the west-southwest horizon. It is the brightest starlike object in the sky, rivaling the lights on a low-flying airplane. Slightly dimmer Jupiter is immediately to its upper left.
After tomorrow’s conjunction, Venus steps to the east, opening a gap each evening. The planet is within 10° of Jupiter until March 11th.
Capture the conjunction with a tripod mounted camera and exposures up to a few seconds.
The bright gibbous moon, 66% illuminated, is high in the south-southeast after sundown, near the Bull’s horns, certainly a precarious place to be.
The lunar orb is 6.4° to the lower left of Elnath, the northern horn, and 7.3° to the upper left of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.
Mars, 4.8° to the lower left of Elnath, is marching eastward in front of Taurus. It passes Elnath on March 9th, moves between the horns on the 11th, and passes Zeta Tauri on the 14th. The planet’s brightness fades as Earth moves away. This evening Mars is slightly brighter than Aldebaran and about the same brightness as Betelgeuse.
- 2023, October 24: Venus, Jupiter, Bookend Bright OrionOctober 24, 2023: Morning planets Venus and Jupiter bookend many bright stars, including Orion. The moon is near Saturn during the evening.
- 2023, October 23: Venus at Greatest ElongationOctober 23, 2023: Venus moves to its farthest angular distance from the sun today, known as greatest elongation. During morning twilight, the Morning Star passes Leo’s Chertan.
- 2023, October 22: Moon Approaches SaturnOctober 22, 2023: During evening hours, the gibbous moon nears Saturn in the southern sky. Venus and Jupiter are visible during morning twilight.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.