April 2, 2023: Saturn is in the east-southeast before sunrise. Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the evening sky. Mercury is starting its best evening appearance of the year.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:32 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:17 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.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Early this morning – around 3:15 a.m. CDT – the gibbous moon, 86% illuminated, is over 20° up in the west. It is 4.1° to the upper right of Regulus. Through a binocular, the lunar orb is 0.8° to the lower left of Eta Leonis (η Leo on the chart).
Before sunrise, Saturn is over 6° above the east-southeast horizon. Each morning, it rises earlier and appears higher in the sky.
Jupiter is sliding into bright twilight. It sets 30 minutes after sundown.
Fifteen minutes later, brilliant Venus is over 25° above the western horizon. It steps eastward in Aries, near the Taurus border, over 15° to the upper left of Hamal, Aries brightest star.
Venus’ eastward direction carries it between the Pleiades and Hyades star cluster in Taurus’ sidereal background. This evening, the Evening star is 10.3° below Alcyone, the brightest Pleiad. With tonight’s bright moonlight, use a binocular to see the cluster. Venus is not yet in the same binocular field with the Pleiades.
Mercury is starting its best evening appearance of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers. Find the speedy planet over 6° up in the western sky and over 20° to the lower right of Venus.
The best evenings to view the planet occurs April 7th through the 15th, when the it sets over 100 minutes after sunset.
Mercury is rarely visible after the end of evening twilight or before the beginning of morning twilight when it is west of the sun. The planet appears to hug the our central star, never straying far enough away to set late into the evening.
Mars is high in the west-southwest at the foot of Castor, one of the Gemini Twins. Mars is marching eastward in the constellation. The Red Planet is dimmer than Capella to its lower left and brighter than Castor and Pollux, above it.
Mars is above an imaginary line that begins at Alhena and extends through Tejat Posterior, Castor’s heel.
Through a binocular, Mars is 2.2° to the upper left of Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart), a star cluster, and 3.0° to the upper right of Propus, Castor’s toe.
Approaching the Full moon phase, the bright gibbous moon, 91% illuminated, is halfway up in the east-southeast, 8.5° to the lower left of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.
- 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.
- 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.