2023, March 9: Bright Moon, Mars Conjunction, Evening Venus, Jupiter


March 9, 2023: The bright moon is with Virgo before sunrise.  Mars passes Elnath, Taurus’ northern horn after sundown while Venus and Jupiter sparkle in the western sky.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 9: The moon is near Porrima before sunrise.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:13 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:50 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

This morning, the bright moon, 96% illuminated, is low in the west-southwest about an hour before sunup. It is 1.5° to the lower right of Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis. 

Chart Caption – 2023, March 9: Through a binocular, the lunar orb is 1.5° to the lower left of Porrima.

The chart that accompanies this article shows more stars than can be seen in this moonlight.  Use a binocular to see Porrima.  Place the moon at the center of the field of view.  The star is to the upper left of the lunar orb.

The moon continues to move eastward each night. Earlier today, before sunrise from New Zealand, the moon blocks or occults the star.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 9: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are in the western sky after sundown.

After sundown, the Venus to Jupiter gap continues to widen.  This evening they are 7.8° apart and growing farther apart at about 1° each night.  They are within 10° of each other for two more evenings.

Step outside about 45 minutes after sundown.  Brilliant Venus is over 20° up in the west.  Bright Jupiter is to the lower right.

While the pair looks close together in the sky, they are far apart in the solar system.  This evening Venus is nearly 123 million miles from us.  Jupiter is over 420 million miles beyond Earth’s Twin Planet.

Jupiter sets 123 minutes after sundown, while Venus follows 40 minutes later.  The Jovian Giant loses four minutes of setting time each evening, as Venus gains two minutes.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 9: Mars passes Elnath, high above the bright winter stars.

High in the south-southwest, Mars passes Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn. With the moon rising over three hours after sundown, the stars of winter dominate the southern sky as night falls.

Mars is high in the sky in front of the stars of Taurus, above Orion’s Betelgeuse and Rigel.  The Bull is easy to recognize.  Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster make a letter “V,” forming the Bull’s head.  The Pleiades star cluster ride on the animals back. Seemingly, the cluster is leading the winter stars westward.

This Bull has long horns, not like a Texas Longhorn, rather resembling an addax or oryx, marked by Elnath and Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.  This evening, Mars passes 3.1° to the lower left of the third conjunction of a triple conjunction series that began October 10, 2022.

Mars continues to fade in brightness as Earth moves away from it.  The planet is dimmer than Capella, above it and nearly overhead, but brighter than Aldebaran.

In two evenings, the Red Planet passes between the horns, then past Zeta Tauri, for the third conjunction on the 14th.

Mars does not pass Elnath again until August 24, 2024.  Interestingly, Mars passes closely to Jupiter (0.3°) on August 14th, and the crescent moon groups with Jupiter and the Red Planet on August 27th.  The Jupiter-Mars conjunction is easily observed about halfway up in the east during morning twilight.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 9: Later during the night, the bright gibbous moon is above Spica.

Four hours after sunset, the gibbous moon, 93% illuminated, is about 15° up in the east-southeast and 5.1° above Spica.



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