March 27, 2023: A Jupiter-Mercury conjunction occurs during bright evening twilight. Saturn is making its first appearance in the eastern sky before sunrise.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:42 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:11 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 70 minutes before daybreak. It is emerging from bright sunlight. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the Ringed Wonder is over 4° above the east-southeast horizon. Depending on the clarity of the sky, the planet might be visible without a binocular. Find a clear view in that direction.
A Jupiter-Mercury conjunction occurs this evening during bright twilight. Optical assistance is needed to see the pair low in the western sky. At thirty minutes after sundown, bright Jupiter is only 4° above the western horizon, with Mercury 1.8° to its right. They easily fit into the same binocular field of view. This is not an easy observation from the bright evening twilight and the conjunction is near the horizon. To find the planetary pair, slowly scan along the western horizon with the binocular. Both are bright. Mercury is nearly as bright as Sirius, but bathed in bright light. Try to see the planet pair.
Mercury is emerging from the sun’s glare after its solar superior conjunction. It is trekking toward its best evening appearance of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers.
Jupiter is heading toward its solar conjunction on April 11th and reappearance in the morning sky before sunrise during May.
Fifteen minutes later, brilliant Venus is easy to see over 25° above the western horizon. It seemingly stands alone against the blush of evening twilight.
Dimmer Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, is 10.6° to the lower right of the Evening Star.
Look for the Pleiades star cluster, less than 20° above Venus. Each evening the gap between the cluster and Venus closes, with Earth’s Twin Planet passing the stellar bundle on April 10th.
As evening twilight ends, return to the night sky and look for Venus again with a binocular. In this darker sky, Uranus is in the same field of view with the Evening Star. The more distant planet is dimmer than Venus and aquamarine in color. This evening place Venus near the lower right edge of the field of view. Uranus is in the center of the field, 3.4° to the upper left of Venus. As the moon continues to wax, this view becomes more difficult, with moonlight overwhelming dim Uranus.
The moon, 40% illuminated, is high in the southwest, nearly between Taurus’ horns, a precarious place. It is 2.6° to the left of Elnath, the northern horn, and 6.0° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.
Mars is 6.5° to the upper left of the lunar orb and marching eastward at the feet of Castor, one of the Gemini Twins. The Red Planet’s direction is generally toward Pollux, passing 5.0° from the star on May 8th.
The Red Planet’s brightness fades as Earth moves farther away. The planet is still brighter than Castor and Pollux, to its upper left, but dimmer than Capella, to its upper right.
Through a binocular, the planet is in the same starfield with the star cluster Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart) and the star Propus, Castor’s toe. Watch the planet each clear evening. Like Uranus, the cluster somewhat fades from the brighter moonlight during the next several evenings.
- 2023, October 24: Venus, Jupiter, Bookend Bright OrionOctober 24, 2023: Morning planets Venus and Jupiter bookend many bright stars, including Orion. The moon is near Saturn during the evening.
- 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.