April 4, 2023: Brilliant Venus and Sirius are about the same height above the horizon during the early evening. Mercury is approaching its best evening sighting of the year for northern hemisphere sky watchers.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:29 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:19 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:
The bright nearly-full moon is low in the west during morning twilight. The moon reaches the Full (Pink) moon phase tomorrow at 11:34 p.m. CDT.
Saturn continues to make its grand appearance in the east-southeast at forty-five minutes. It is over 7° above the east-southeast horizon. Find a clear sight line in that direction.
The planet is not exceptionally bright, like Venus and Jupiter, but easily located.
Jupiter is moving toward its solar conjunction in a week. This evening it sets about twenty minutes after the sun.
The evening is dominated by the bright, nearly-full moon, starting the night in the east-southeast. The moonlight washes out dimmer stars and celestial wonders. It casts a bright light on the ground that is bright enough for a nighttime walk without the need for a flashlight.
Brilliant Venus is over 25° up in the western sky at 45 minutes after sundown. It is stepping eastward in front of Aries, near the Taurus border.
The Evening Star is approaching the Pleiades star cluster. This evening, the planet is 8.0° below the star cluster, too far apart to fit into the same binocular field of view. Tomorrow, they fit, but snugly on opposite sides.
Each evening, watch the planet close in on the star cluster.
This evening, note that Venus and Sirius, in the south-southwest, are about the same altitude – height above the horizon.
Mercury, nearly 8° above the west-northwest horizon, is over 20° to the lower right of Venus. The speedy planet is nearing its latest sunset time intervals, 100 minutes after sunset, beginning in three evenings. This is the best evening appearance of the year from the northern hemisphere.
From the mid-northern latitudes, the planet is never much higher in the sky after sundown and it is always visible during evening twilight or morning twilight, never in a dark sky.
Mars is higher in the west-southwest, over 40° to the upper left of Venus. The Red Planet is below an arc of four bright stars in the western sky – made by Procyon, Pollux, Castor, and Capella – near Castor’s heel, Tejat Posterior. Tomorrow the planet passes that star.
Mars is fading noticeably, now dimmer than Capella, but brighter than Castor and Pollux.
Even with the bright moon, try to find the star cluster known as Messier 35 (M 35) with a binocular. Mars is 3.7° to the upper left of the cluster tonight. The heel star and toe star, Propus, are in the field of view with Mars and the star cluster.
- 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.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.
- 2023, October 16-22: Celestial Events for the WeekOctober 16-22, 2023: The moon returns to the evening sky. Venus steps eastward in front of Leo, and a meteor shower is visible.
- 2023, October 15: Three Bright PlanetsOctober 15, 2023: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise. Saturn is above the southeast horizon after sundown.