2023, March 4: Western Planet Spectacular, Evening Gibbous Moon

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March 4, 2023: Venus steps away from Jupiter after sunset.  The evening gibbous moon is in the eastern sky, above Regulus.  Mars marches eastward against Taurus.

Photo Caption – Venus – Jupiter December 30, 2014

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:21 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:44 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.

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Two bright morning planets, Mercury and Saturn, are hidden by bright morning twilight.  They are not easily visible.  Saturn, climbing into the morning sky, rises 26 minutes before the sun.  It gains two minutes of rising time each morning.  It makes its first appearance before sunrise about the time of the equinox.

Mercury plunges deeper into bright twilight each morning as its heads for superior conjunction on the far arc of its orbit in less than two weeks.  It then makes the best evening appearance of the year during April.

Tomorrow morning, the bright moon is visible in the western sky before sunrise.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 4: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are in the west-southwest after sundown.

Brilliant Venus continues to open a gap on Jupiter in the west-southwest after sunset.  Begin looking about 45 minutes after the sun leaves the sky.  The Evening Star is over 20° above the horizon, with bright Jupiter 2.8° below it.

The planets are moving eastward in front of Pisces’ dim stars that are whitewashed by the blush of evening twilight.  Venus travels eastward along the ecliptic over 1° from night to night, while Jupiter moves eastward less than 0.25° nightly.  Venus stays within 10° of Jupiter for another week.

Venus sets later each night, but Jupiter sets earlier.  The Jovian Giant disappears into bright evening twilight in a few weeks.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 4: Mars nears Elnath, high in the south-southwest, after sundown.

Meanwhile, high in the south-southwest, Mars marches eastward in front of Taurus.  This evening it is 3.7° below Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn and 6.3° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.

During the next several evenings, watch the Red Planet pass Elnath (March 9th), move between the horns (March 11th), and pass Zeta (March 14th).

Chart Caption – 2023, March 4: The moon is in the east after sunset, above Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

The bright gibbous moon, 94% illuminated, is less than halfway up in the east and nearly 15° above Regulus, meaning “the prince,” the brightest star in Leo.

The moon reaches the Full moon phase at 6:04 a.m. CST on March 7th.

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