March 25, 2023: The crescent moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster. Evening Star Venus gleams brightly from the western sky after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:46 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:08 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location. Times are calculated by the U.S. Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Saturn rises earlier each morning and is slowly becoming visible in a darker sky. This morning it is less than 5° above the east-southeast horizon at forty-five minutes before sunup. If the horizon is cloud free and unobstructed, use a binocular to attempt to find it.
Mercury sets nearly six minutes later each night compared to the sunset time. It is racing toward its best evening appearance of the year.
At thirty minutes after sunset, Mercury is only a few degrees above the horizon. In two evenings, it passes Jupiter.
The Jovian Giant is slowly slipping into brighter twilight. This evening at forty-five minutes after sundown, it is only a few degrees above the western horizon. This may be the last time to look for the planet at this time interval.
At this hour step outside and look westward. The crescent moon, 21% illuminated, is nearly halfway up in the west-southwestern sky. The moon’s night portion is showing earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s features that gently illuminates the lunar night. This is visible to the unassisted eye. The effect can be captured with a tripod-mounted camera or with a smartphone’s camera if held steadily.
Brilliant Venus is nearly 25° up in the west and about 20° to the lower right of the lunar crescent. This evening, the Evening Star is 9.8° to the left of Hamal, the brightest star in Aries.
While it is the brightest star with its constellation, the star is about the brightness of the stars in the Big Dipper.
Jupiter is near the horizon and 23.3° to the lower right of Venus. Quite a gap has opened since their close conjunction on the 1st.
While the Venus-Jupiter gap opens, the wide Venus-Mars gap is closing. The Red Planet is nearly 50° to the upper left of Venus. Mars is marching eastward in front of Taurus and approaching the Gemini border.
As the sky darkens further, the dimmer stars appear and notice that the lunar crescent is near the Pleiades star cluster. Both easily fit into the same binocular field of view.
Mars is east of this scene, 8.1° to the upper left of Elnath, Taurus’ northern horn, 6.7° above Zeta Tauri, the southern horn, and 4.6° to the right of Propus, Castor’s toe.
Another star cluster, Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart) appears near Mars and Propus this evening. The stellar bundle is dimmer than the Pleiades because M35 is more distant. A binocular is needed to see the cluster. Watch Mars move eastward against the starfield during the next few evenings. Catch Mars’ eastward trek through a binocular.
- 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.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.