April 6, 2023: Three planets – Venus, Mercury, and Mars – are in the evening sky. Venus approaches the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is at its best evening appearance.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:25 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:22 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:
An hour before sunrise, the bright Pink Moon – April’s Full moon – is less than 15° up in the west-southwest and 5.8° to the right of Spica – meaning “the ear of corn.” Because of this glaring moon, Spica might be hidden by moonlight. Hold up your hand to block the moon’s light as you would to reduce the sun’s brightness.
Saturn is visible at this hour, low in the east-southeast. Fifteen minutes later, the Ringed Wonder is nearly 8° above the horizon. It appears higher each morning. Find a clear horizon toward its direction this morning.
Jupiter is sliding into bright sunlight, setting only fifteen minutes after the sun. It is heading toward solar conjunction in less than a week and a reappearance in the eastern morning sky next month.
Brilliant Venus and Mercury are putting on their planetary displays in the western sky after sundown. At 45 minutes after nightfall, Venus is over 25° above the horizon. It is approaching the Pleiades star cluster.
This evening Venus is 5.8° to the lower left of Alcyone, the brightest Pleiad. They fit into a binocular’s field of view.
Additionally, look for Sirius, the night’s brightest star, in the south-southwest. It is at about the same altitude as Venus. The brightest star and the brightest planet are over 60° apart in the sky.
Tomorrow, the Evening Star moves from Aries into Taurus, passing the Pleiades on the 10th.
At this hour, Mercury is nearly 9° above the west-northwest horizon and 19.9° to the lower right of Venus. This speedy planet is making its best evening appearance of the year, reaching its largest separation from the sun, known as greatest elongation, in five evenings. Beginning tomorrow through the 15th, the planet sets at least 100 minutes after sunset.
Look for the planet as a bright star, although not as bright as Venus. A clear horizon is needed toward the west northwest. Extend a fist to arm’s length with the pinky finger down. The distance from the pinky to the thumb is about 10°. Place the pinky finger at the horizon. Mercury should appear near the thumb knuckle.
With the bright moon, 99% illuminated, rising in the east-southeast at one hour after sundown, Mars is high in the west-southwest, near Castor’s heel. The Red Planet is marching eastward in front of Gemini, generally headed toward Pollux.
An hour later, the lunar orb is over 10° above the horizon and 5.0° to the lower left of Spica. Look for them in the western sky before sunrise tomorrow morning.
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