March 13, 2023: The gibbous moon is near Dschubba, the Scorpion’s forehead. Three bright planets, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars, shine brightly after nightfall.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:06 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:55 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location. Times are calculated from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
As the equinox approaches, daylight is growing by its fastest daily interval change each day approximately two to three minutes each day.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
This morning a bright gibbous moon, 68% illuminated, is over 20° above the southern horizon. The lunar orb is 1.5° to the lower right of Dschubba, the Scorpion’s forehead, appearing to headbutt the celestial arachnid.
Dschubba may be difficult to see in this moonlight. A binocular helps locate the star compared to the moon. The field of view is large enough to include Graffias, meaning “the crab,” above Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii (Pi Sco on the chart), below. The three stars form a short, nearly-vertical line.
Later today, after midnight in New Zealand, the moon covers or occults Dschubba.
The Scorpion’s brightest star, Antares, is 8.0° to the lower left of the moon. The pattern resembles a fish hook or letter “J” that curves toward the horizon, to the east of Antares, and curves back up into the sky, ending at two stars making the stinger, sometimes called the “Cat’s Eyes.”
As for morning planets, Mercury nears superior conjunction and the year’s best evening display next month.
Saturn rises about 45 minutes before the sun and it is lost in bright morning twilight at sunrise. The Ringed Wonder appears four minutes earlier each morning, making its first appearance in about a week.
Venus and Jupiter shine brightly from the western sky after sundown. Forty-five minutes after nightfall, brilliant Venus is over 20° up in the western sky, 11.7° to the upper left of Jupiter.
At this hour, the Jovian Giant, is over 10° above the horizon. While it is bright, find a clear horizon to see Venus and Jupiter in the same region of the sky.
Venus sets about two minutes later each evening, while Jupiter sets four minutes earlier, compared to sunset. This evening Jupiter sets 107 minutes after sunset, and Venus follows over 60 minutes later.
Jupiter is sliding into brighter twilight and disappears into the sun’s glare near month’s end. It passes its solar conjunction on April 11th and it begins to appear before sunrise around mid-May.
Notice that Hamal, the brightest star in Aries and meaning “the full-grown ram,” appears on the accompanying chart. This evening, it is over 15° to the upper right of Venus.
As Venus steps eastward, it passes nearly 10° to the lower left of Hamal on the 23rd.
Mars is high in the southwest, marching eastward in front of Taurus. It stepped between the Bull’s horns two nights ago, and this evening it is noticeably east of an imaginary line from Elnath, the northern horn, and Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.
Tomorrow evening, the planet passes Zeta Tauri and moves from Taurus into Gemini on the 26th.
- 2023, October 23: Venus at Greatest ElongationOctober 23, 2023: Venus moves to its farthest angular distance from the sun today, known as greatest elongation. During morning twilight, the Morning Star passes Leo’s Chertan.
- 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.