March 15, 2023: The thick morning moon is near the Teapot of Sagittarius. After sundown, Venus widens the gap to Jupiter. Mars marches eastward.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:03 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:57 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.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
One hour before sunrise, the thick crescent moon, 46% illuminated, is low in the south-southeastern sky. The lunar orb is near “The Teapot” of Sagittarius. Part of the centaur’s shape resembles this familiar shape.
The moon is 2.7° to the upper right of Alnasl, meaning “the point of the arrow,” referring to the centaur’s bow and arrow.
Tomorrow morning, the moon covers or occults the star Phi Sagittarii (φ Sgr on the chart) from South America.
This morning’s moon is close to the spot where the sun appears at the winter solstice. That place is slightly higher in the sky from this morning’s moon. Notice the moon’s low altitude – height above the horizon – mimicking the winter sun.
Two weeks after their close conjunction, the Venus-Jupiter gap widens to 13.6°. Forty-five minutes after sundown, Venus is over 20° above the western horizon, to the upper left of bright Jupiter.
Venus is 13.4° to the lower left of Hamal, the brightest star in Aries, that is about the brightness of the Big Dipper’s stars. Venus passes the star in a wide conjunction on the 23rd.
The Jovian Giant is slowly sliding into brighter twilight, appearing less than 10° above the horizon. It enters bright sunlight at month’s end, passes solar conjunction on April 11th, and reappears in the eastern sky before sunrise during May. This evening it sets 100 minutes after sunset, followed by Venus over sixty minutes later.
Unlike, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn, Jupiter can be followed into brighter twilight because of its brightness. It is the fourth brightest celestial object after the sun, moon, and Venus. On some occasions, Mars is brighter than Jupiter, although the solar system’s largest planet is consistently in the top four bright bodies.
Mars is high in the southwest, marching eastward near the Taurus-Gemini border. The Red Planet crosses into the next constellation on the 26th.
This evening the planet is east of the Bull’s horns, 4.4° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri – the southern horn – and 4.1° to the lower left of Elnath – the northern horn.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.