2023, March 29: Morning Saturn, Venus Approaches Uranus


March 29, 2023: Saturn is entering the east-southeastern sky before sunup.  During the evening, Venus approaches Uranus before their conjunction.

Photo Caption – 2016, August 22: Mars is 4.3° below Saturn. Antares is nearby.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:39 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:13 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:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 29: Saturn is low in the east-southeast before sunrise.

Saturn is emerging from bright morning twilight into the east-southeastern sky before sunrise.  It is nearly 5° above the horizon at forty-five minutes before sunup.  Unless the sky is exceptionally clear, a binocular is needed to find the Ringed Wonder.  Sky watchers at more southerly latitudes can find the planet higher in the sky and without the need for optical assistance.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, March 29: Through a binocular, Jupiter and Mercury are low in the western sky at 30 minutes after sundown.

After sunset, this is likely the last evening to find Jupiter, even with a binocular’s optical assist.  It slides into evening twilight, reaching solar conjunction next month.  This is followed by its reappearance in the morning sky during May.

At thirty minutes after sundown, the Jovian Giant is a few degrees above the western horizon with Mercury 3.4° to its upper right.

Speedy Mercury is seemingly jumping into the evening sky, its best evening appearance of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers.  While Venus moves eastward about 1° each evening, Mercury jumps nearly twice that distance each night during the next week. 

This solar system’s innermost planet, sets five minutes later from night to night.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 29: Venus is in the western sky after sundown.

At forty-five minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is over 25° above the western horizon and 11.9° to the upper left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star. Mercury is low to Venus’ lower right.

Look carefully for the Pleiades, nearly 15° to the upper left of Venus.  They can be seen easier when the sky darkens some more.

Venus crosses into Taurus on April 7th and passes 2.6° to the lower left of the star cluster on the 10th.

As Venus closes in on the Pleiades, it reduces the gap to Mars each evening.  Tonight, the Red Planet is over 45° to Venus’ upper left and appears at the foot of Castor.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 27-April 1: Venus moves through the same binocular field with Uranus.

Return to the western sky with a binocular as the sky darkens further. Twilight ends 95 minutes after sundown.  Look for Uranus 1.5° to the upper left of Venus.  Place Venus at the center of the field of view, aquamarine Uranus is to the upper left.  Venus passes the planet tomorrow evening.

In comparison, Uranus is 17 times farther away than Venus.  It receives only one-three hundredth the sunlight that reaches Venus.  While Uranus is larger it reflects less than half the sunlight that reaches its cloud tops.  The result is that Venus is over 8,000 times brighter than Uranus in the sky this evening.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 29: The gibbous moon is near Castor and Pollux, while Mars is near Castor’s toe.

At one hour after sundown, the bright gibbous moon, 59% illuminated, is high in the west southwest, 4.5° to the lower right of Pollux and 5.4° to the lower left of Castor.  The stars are the Gemini Twins.

Look on the ground around you.  The moonlight is casting shadows.  This is the same effect that occurs on the moon when it is at the crescent phases.  Sunlight reflected from Earth’s features gently illuminates the lunar night.  Yes, this means that from the moon, Earth’s phase is a crescent, around 40% illuminated.

Chart Caption – 2023, March 26-April 5: Mars moves through the same binocular field with Propus and Messier 35 (M 35).

Mars is nearly 20° to the lower right of the lunar orb, at Castor’s foot.  The planet is marching eastward near Propus, Castor’s toe, and the star cluster Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart).  Use a binocular to see the view, but the star cluster is muted by the moon’s bright light. 



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