2023, April 12: Steeped Morning Moon, Nightly Planet Dance


April 12, 2023: The moon is in front of the Teapot of Sagittarius before sunrise.  After nightfall, Venus, Mercury, and Mars dance against the evening’s stars.

Photo Caption – Venus and Mercury: March 14, 2018


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:16 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:28 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 12: The gibbous moon is in the Teapot of Sagittarius before daybreak.

One hour before daybreak, the gibbous moon, 61% illuminated, is in the Teapot of Sagittarius.  It appears to be brewing in the pot. With the bright moonlight, use a binocular to see the lunar tea cooking in the teapot.

The lunar orb’s phase loses about 10% of its light each morning.  The half morning phase, Last Quarter, occurs tomorrow morning at 4:11 a.m. CDT.

Later today, early tomorrow morning in Australia and Indonesia, the moon covers or occults the star Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr on the chart), a star in the pot’s handle.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 12: Saturn is low in the east-southeast before sunrise.

At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Saturn is nearly 10° above the east-southeast horizon.  It continues to emerge from bright sunlight into the morning sky. 

Jupiter is soon to follow after its conjunction yesterday. By month’s end, it rises 30 minutes before the sun, becoming visible later during May.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, April 12: Brilliant Venus and Mercury are in the western sky after sundown.

Forty-five minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is nearly 30° above the western horizon and 3.0° to the upper left of the Pleiades star cluster.  Find Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star, 10.6° to the upper left of the Evening Star.

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

Venus is below an imaginary line from the star cluster to Aldebaran.  Tomorrow evening it is above the line.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 12: Through a binocular, Venus and the Pleiades star cluster are in the same field of view.

Venus and the Pleiades star cluster are in the same binocular field of view.  Whether viewed through a binocular or without its assist, the sight is magnificent.

Mercury, one day after its greatest elongation or largest separation from the sun, is 10.0° above the west-northwest horizon and over 20° to the lower right of Venus.  The speedy planet is beginning to catch up with Earth, passing between our planet and the sun on May 1st.

Beginning in three nights, the planet sets earlier and dims considerably.  Even this evening, it is dimmer than it was a week ago.  It is visible to the unassisted human eyes, but a binocular helps with the initial identification. This evening the planet sets 105 minutes after sunset.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 12: Mars is near Mebsuta, below Castor in the western evening sky.

Three planets, Venus, Mercury, and Mars are in the western sky, spanning nearly 60°.  Venus continues to cut the gap to Mars that is over 36° this evening.  Mars is dimmer than Mercury and about the same visual intensity as Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins, to the Red Planet’s upper left.

Mars is marching eastward in front of Gemini’s distant stars, only at about half the speed of Venus’ nightly eastward step.  This evening the planet is 0.9° to the lower right of Mebsuta, meaning “the out-stretched paw of the lion,” below Castor, the second Twin.  In two nights, Mars seems to pass closely to the background star.

While Mars is visible when Mercury is easily seen at 45 minutes after sundown, look for Gemini’s dimmer stars at the end of evening twilight, around 90 minutes after sundown.

Watch the dance of the three planets after sunset each evening.



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