2023, March 8: Virgo Moon, Mars Splits the Horns, Venus Widens Gap


March 8, 2023:  The morning moon is with Virgo.  During the evening, Mars is moving between the Bull’s horns.  Venus widens a gap with Jupiter.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 8: The moon is with Virgo’s stars before daybreak.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:15 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:49 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

The bright moon, 99% illuminated, is about 20° up in the west-southwest at an hour before sunrise.  This morning it is in front of Virgo’s stars.  The lunar orb is 1.6° above the star Zavijava – meaning “the corner of the barking dog.”  The star is also known as Beta Virginis.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 8: Through a binocular, the moon is near the star Zavijava.

The starfield on this morning’s chart shows more stars than can be seen without the optical assist of a binocular.  To see Zavijava, use a binocular, although the moon’s light is amplified and may cause a temporary afterimage in vision, like that from a camera flash.  Once the star is located, move the binocular so that the star is visible, but the moon is outside the field of view.

Without the binocular, Spica – meaning “the ear of corn” – is higher than the moon and in the southeast.  This star is the brightest in the constellation.

Tomorrow morning, the moon is near Porrima.  From New Zealand, the moon blocks or occults the star.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 8: After sundown, the gap widens from Venus to Jupiter.

The gap from Venus to Jupiter continues to widen in the western evening sky.  At about 45 minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is a “can’t miss” about 20° above the horizon and 6.8° to the upper left of bright Jupiter.

Venus moves about four times faster than Jupiter toward the east, compared to the starry background.  This is the last evening that the two planets fit into the same binocular field of view.  They won’t be this close again until August 5, 2025, leading up to their conjunction a week later. It should be noted that Venus and Jupiter are at conjunction during May 2024, but they are too close to the sun for easy observation.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 8: In the south-southwest, Mars nears the third conjunction with Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn.

Higher in the south-southwest, Mars is nearing its third conjunction in a triple conjunction series with the horns of Taurus.  Tomorrow evening it passes Elnath.  On the 11th, it passes between the horns, and three nights later it passes Zeta Tauri, the southern horn, for the third conjunction with this star.

By two hours after sundown, the moon, 97% illuminated, is less than 10° up in the east.  It moves across the sky all night and appears in the western sky before tomorrow’s daybreak.



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