March 6, 2023: Venus splits from Jupiter each evening in the west after sundown. The bright, nearly-Full moon is in the sky all night. Mars nears Taurus’ horns.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:18 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:46 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.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, the bright, nearly-Full moon, is about 10° up in the west, 4.6° to the upper left of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. With this moonlight, the star is difficult to see. Block the moonlight with your hand or the edge of a building.
Two bright planets, Mercury and Saturn, seemed to be stuck in bright morning twilight. Mercury is advancing toward its solar conjunction, known as superior conjunction, in about 10 days. The planet is moving toward the far arc of its orbit on the other side of the sun from Earth. During early April it pops into the evening sky for its best evening appearance of the year.
Saturn is beginning to emerge from the sun’s glare, rising 30 minutes before the sun. This is about the time of Civil Twilight, when the sun is 6° below the horizon, but the sky is too bright to see the Ringed Wonder when it is high enough in the sky to see.
Venus is now leaving Jupiter in its planetary dust in the western evening sky. After their conjunction on March 1st, Earth’s twin planet is noticeably farther eastward than Jupiter. At forty-five minutes after sunset, the Evening Star is over 20° up in the west, 4.8° to the upper left of bright Jupiter.
Venus is within 10° of the Jovian Giant through the 11th. The gap opens about 1° each evening.
If you’ve been watching Venus for the past several days, you’ll notice that it appears farther northward along the horizon, like the sun’s changing sunset position.
The third bright evening planet, Mars, is high in the south-southwest at one hour after sunset. It is moving toward a passage between the horns of Taurus. The northern horn, Elnath, is 3.3° above the planet, while the southern horn, Zeta Tauri, is 5.7° to the lower left.
Mars passes Elnath in three nights, moves between the horns on the 11th, and passes Zeta on the 14th.
Mars is noticeably dimming as the distance from Earth increases. The planet’s brightness is highly variable. At times it can be brighter than Jupiter and dimmer than Aldebaran, nearly 15° to the planet’s lower right, at other times. It is brightest when closest and brightest in the sky to Earth, when our home world is between the sun and the Red Planet.
At this time, the bright moon is less than 20° up in the east, in front of Leo’s stars. 11.8° to the lower left of Regulus and 13.3° to the upper right of Denebola.
The moon is at the official Full moon phase tomorrow at 6:40 a.m. CST.
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