March 7, 2023: Venus and Jupiter appear near each other in the west while Mars nears a conjunction with the Bull’s northern horn. The moon is Full in the morning, the Worm moon.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:16 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:48 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:
An hour before sunrise, the Worm moon is about 15° up in the west. The moon reaches the Full phase at 6:40 a.m. CST, about the time of moonset in Chicago.
This morning, the lunar orb is over 15° to the upper left of Regulus, meaning “the prince,” that marks the heart of Leo. Denebola, the tail, is 11.1° to the moon’s upper left.
Mercury is striding toward its solar conjunction, known as superior conjunction, in 10 days. The planet is on the far side of the sun and lost in the solar glare.
Saturn is slowly climbing into the morning sky after its solar conjunction last month. This morning it rises 32 minutes before the sun. Expect first glimpses of the planet about the time of the equinox on the 20th.
Venus and Jupiter shine brightly from the west this evening after sunset. At forty-five minutes after sundown, the Evening Star is over 20° above the horizon, with Jupiter 5.8° to its lower right.
Venus passed Jupiter nearly a week ago and it continues to open a gap with the Jovian Giant. Earth’s Twin Planet stays within 10° for another four nights. The two brightest starlike bodies are close together in the sky, but they are far apart in space.
This evening, Venus is nearly 124 million miles from Earth, but Jupiter is nearly 420 million miles farther beyond Venus, over four times Venus’ distance from our planet.
Venus sets later each evening, but Jupiter sets about four minutes earlier. Venus moves faster around the sun than Earth and it is quickly catching our world. It passes between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction) on August 13th and jumps into the morning sky.
In contrast, Jupiter generally follows the westward migration of the constellations, from Earth’s solar revolution. Jupiter is slowly moving eastward in Pisces, the location of the sun’s place at the equinox. Jupiter disappears into bright evening twilight near month’s end, passes behind the sun (conjunction) on April 11th and reappears in the morning sky during May. Jupiter’s absence is not as long as Saturn because of Jupiter’s brightness. This makes Jupiter visible longer into evening twilight and then earlier after conjunction.
Mars is high in the south-southwest, marching eastward in Taurus, near the Bull’s horns. This evening the planet is 3.2° to the lower right of Elnath, the northern horn, and 5.5° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn. The Red Planet passes Elnath in two nights.
Mars dims as Earth moves away. Earth and Mars were closest on November 30th, with a separation of about 51 million miles. This evening the separation has widened to 112 million miles and consequently the planet has dimmed nearly 5 times from when it was closest. It is dimmer than Capella, the star that’s nearly overhead, but brighter than Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.
The bright moon is less than 10° up in the east during the early evening, rising nearly 20 minutes after sundown in Chicago. The lunar orb is 9.3° to the lower right of Denebola and in front of Virgo.
During the night, the moon appears to move westward from Earth’s rotation. By tomorrow morning it is in the western sky.
- 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.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.