April 5, 2023: Venus, Mercury, and Mars shine brightly from the western sky after sundown. The Pink Moon shines brightly all night.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:27 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:20 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 moon, 99% illuminated, is about 10° up in the western sky an hour before sunrise. It is less than 20° to the lower right of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.
Saturn is visible at this hour, but easier to see as twilight progresses. Fifteen minutes later, the Ringed Wonder is over 7° above the east-southeast horizon, becoming easier to see each morning. If you are looking for it, find a clear horizon looking in its direction.
Jupiter continues to move toward solar conjunction in less than a week with a reappearance in the morning sky, later next month. The Jovian Giant is lost in bright twilight, setting only nineteen minutes after the sun.
Brilliant Venus and Mercury are putting on displays in the western sky after sundown. Venus is over 25° above the horizon at 45 minutes after sunset. The planet is 6.9° below the Pleiades star cluster, and they snugly fit into the same binocular field of view. The Evening Star moves into Taurus in two evenings and passes closest to the cluster on the 10th.
Look for Sirius in the south-southwest. The brightest planet, Venus, and the brightest star, Sirius, are at about the same altitude – height above the horizon.
Mercury, over 20° to the lower right of Venus, is over 8° above the west-northwest horizon. It is beginning its best evening appearance of the year. The planet seems to hug the sun and when the solar system is favorably tilted compared to the horizon, it reaches its highest points around 10° above the horizon during spring evenings, then again during autumn mornings.
Beginning in two evenings and lasting through the 15th, the planet sets at least 100 minutes after sundown, placing it about 10° above the horizon.
Mars is over 25° to the upper left of Venus with the brilliant planet closing the gap to the Red Planet about 1° each evening. Mars is two-thirds of the way from the horizon to overhead, above the west-southwest horizon. It is near Castor’s heel, Tejat Posterior.
With the distance to our planet rapidly increasing, the planet continues to dim. It is now slightly brighter than Castor and Pollux, above it.
Through a binocular, find the planet and the star cluster, Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart) to its lower right.
Ninety minutes after sundown, find the bright moon 20° up in the east-southeast and 9.3° above Spica. The moon is officially at the Full phase at 11:34 p.m. CDT. This moon’s Full phase is known as the Pink Moon. It rises over 30 minutes after the sun sets. Find the moon and Spica in the western sky before sunrise after their all-night western journey.
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