2023, April 3: The Planets Parade


April 3, 2023: Four planets – Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn – are visible during nighttime hours.  The bright gibbous moon approaches the Full moon phase.

Photo Caption – Venus and Mercury, March 1, 2018


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:30 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:18 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:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, April 3: Saturn is low in the east-southeast before sunrise.

Saturn is visible in the east-southeast before sunrise.  Find a clear horizon in that direction.  The planet is over 6° above the horizon. It rises 84 minutes before the sun and the time interval increases two minutes each day.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, April 3: The bright gibbous moon is near Denebola after sundown.

Jupiter, about a week before solar conjunction, is lost in the sun’s glare.  It sets less than 30 minutes after the sun, and loses three minutes of setting time each evening.

The bright moon, 96% illuminated and two days before the Full moon phase, is about one-third of the way up in the east-southeast as darkness descends.  It is 9.1° to the lower right of Denebola, the Lion’s tail.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 3: Mars is near Tejat Posterior, Castor’s heel.

Farther westward, Mars is high in the west-southwest near Castor’s foot.  Notice the four stars – Procyon, Pollux, Castor, and Capella – make an arc across the western sky.  Mars is below Castor and distinctly yellow-orange in color. This evening the Red Planet is 3.0° to the upper right of Tejat Posterior, the heel.

Mars is marching eastward, generally toward Pollux.  It passes 5.0° from the star in a wide conjunction on May 8.

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

This evening use a binocular to spot Mars 2.8° to the upper left of the star cluster, Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart).  Tejat Posterior and Propus, the toe, are in the field of view.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 3: Venus and Mercury are in the western sky after sunset.

Brilliant Venus continues to dominate the western sky after sundown.  It is less than one-third of the way from the horizon to overhead.  Its brightness competes with the lights on low-flying airplanes.

Venus is 10 times brighter than Sirius, the night’s brightest star, that is slightly higher than Venus in the south-southwest.

Mercury is less than 10° above the horizon, and 21.0° to the lower right of Venus at 45 minutes after sundown.  It is approaching its best appearance of the year.  At that time, it sets more than 100 minutes after sundown. During twilight, it is 10° above the horizon and to the lower right of Venus.

This is the best view of the solar system’s innermost planet.  It seems to hug the sun, never straying far from it as it shuttles from the morning sky to evening and back again.  When the solar system is tilted favorably during spring evenings and autumn mornings, northern hemisphere sky watchers have their best Mercury views.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 1-April 22: Venus moves from Aries into Taurus, passing the Pleiades and the Hyades.

As Mercury makes its best appearance, Venus steps eastward into Taurus on the 7th and passes the Pleiades star cluster three nights later.  Tonight, the Evening Star is 9.1° below the stellar bundle, too far apart to fit into the same binocular field of view.  Watch Venus close the gap on the star cluster, then pass between it and the Hyades cluster.



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