2023, March 13: Moon Headbutts the Scorpion, Bright Evening Planets


March 13, 2023: The gibbous moon is near Dschubba, the Scorpion’s forehead.  Three bright planets, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars, shine brightly after nightfall.

Photo Caption – 2020, December 3: One hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon is over 30° in altitude in the west. It is near central Gemini beneath the Twins, Castor and Pollux.


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:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 13: The gibbous moon is near Dschubba, the Scorpion’s forehead.

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 13: Through a binocular, Dschubba and the moon are close together. Graffias and Pi Scorpii (Pi Sco) are in the field of view.

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.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 13: Venus and Jupiter are in the west after sundown.

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 13: Mars east of an imaginary line from Elnath to Zeta Tauri, Taurus’ horns.

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.



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