April 1, 2023: Venus begins to approach the Pleiades star cluster after sundown. The moon covers or occults Eta Leonis during the night.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:34 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:16 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.
Today’s daylight length is twelve hours, forty-two minutes. During the month, daylight increases seventy-seven minutes to nearly fourteen hours.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Forty-five minutes before daybreak, Saturn is nearly 6° above the east-southeast horizon. The planet is among the brightest starlike bodies in the morning sky, but not strikingly bright like Venus or Jupiter.
Jupiter is moving toward solar conjunction on the 11th and its reappearance in the eastern morning sky before sunrise. This evening it is in bright twilight, setting only about 35 minutes after sundown.
About ten minutes later, brilliant Venus is over 25° up in the western sky. The planet is the brightest starlike body, ten times brighter than Sirius, the night’s brightest star that is slightly higher in the sky than Venus and in the south-southwest.
Mercury, starting its best evening appearance of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers, is nearly 6° above the western horizon and over 20° to the lower right of Venus. The speedy planet is a little fainter than Sirius.
Venus begins to approach the Pleiades star cluster. The Evening Star is approaching the Aries-Taurus border, over 10° to the lower right of the star cluster. The bright gibbous moon washes out the dimmer stars, and a binocular is helpful this evening to see the cluster as well as the Hyades cluster. With Aldebaran, the Hyades outlines the head of the Bull.
Watch Venus move closer and pass the Pleiades cluster on the 10th. The close appearance of Venus with the Pleiades is a remarkable sight.
This evening, look for Venus and Uranus through a binocular. Tonight, place Venus near the top of the field of view. Aquamarine Uranus is near the center of the field. The more-distant planet is faint and near the center of the field of view.
The bright gibbous moon, 84% illuminated, over halfway up in the southeastern sky, 6.1° above Regulus, meaning “the prince,” Leo’s brightest star.
Through a binocular, the moon is 2.6° to the upper right of Eta Leonis (η Leo on the chart). Later tonight, the moon covers or occults the star from the Pacific Ocean basin, including Hawaii and French Polynesia.
From Chicago, the moon is closest to Eta Leonis around 3:15 a.m. CDT.
Venus moves eastward faster than Mars, marching eastward near the foot of Castor, one of the Gemini Twins. The gap between the two planets is nearly 45° this evening. Watch Venus cut the gap to Mars during the next few months.
This evening, find the Red Planet high in the west-southwest, to the lower right of Castor and Pollux, and to the lower left of Capella, the brightest star in Auriga.
Mars is dimming from a growing distance to Earth, tonight nearly 136 million miles away. It is dimmer than Capella, yet brighter than the Gemini Twins.
This evening Mars is 3.4° to the upper right of Tejat Posterior, Castor’s heel. Notice that Mars, the heel star, and Alhena are nearly in a line.
Through a binocular, Mars is 1.9° above the star cluster Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart), along with Propus (the toe) and Tejat Posterior.
- 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.
- 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.