April 13, 2023: The moon approaches Saturn before sunup. Brilliant Venus, Mercury and Mars dance with the stars after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:14 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:29 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 moon is at Last Quarter phase at 4:11 a.m. CDT. The morning half-full moon rises about an hour earlier and is low in the southeast. By 45 minutes before daybreak, the lunar orb is less than 20° above the south-southeast horizon.
Saturn is 40.0° to the lower left of the moon and over 10° above the east-southeast horizon. The Ringed Wonder rises 105 minutes before sunrise and gains two minutes of rising time each morning.
Jupiter, after its solar conjunction, is slowly moving toward its first morning appearance next month.
A bright three-planet dance is occurring in the evening sky. Brilliant Venus is easily visible about 30° up in the west at 45 minutes after sundown.
The planet is stepping eastward through Taurus’ rich starfields. This evening it is above an imaginary line from Aldebaran to the Pleiades star cluster. The Evening Star is 3.8° to the upper left of the Pleiades and 9.8° to the lower right of Taurus’ brightest star.
Through a binocular, Venus and the star cluster fit into the same field of view. Notice Venus’ location compared to the the star 37 Tauri (37 Tau on the chart). Their gap this evening is 0.6°. Compare this separation to what you see tomorrow to gauge Venus’ eastward motion.
After its greatest separation from the sun, Mercury is less than 10° above the west-northwest horizon at this hour. It fades in brightness, but it is visible without a binocular. Use the optical assistance to initially find the planet. It is brighter than Aldebaran, but lower in the blush of evening twilight.
Venus is closing a gap to Mars, over 35° to its upper left. Earth’s Twin Planet moves eastward nearly twice as fast as Mars. When does Venus overtake Mars.
While the Red Planet is below Castor, one of the Gemini Twins, when Mercury is easily seen, wait until the end of evening twilight, about 90 minutes after nightfall. At that time, Mars is over halfway up in the west.
Gemini resembles two stick figures with arms around the other Twin. Castor and Pollux mark the Twin’s heads.
Mars is marching eastward in front of the distant stars, 13.0° below Castor and 0.4° below Mebsuta. Tomorrow, the planet passes that star. Mars is generally moving toward Pollux, passing it in a wide conjunction on May 8th.
Mars fades in brightness from and increasing distance from our home planet. This evening it is about the brightness of Pollux.
Continue to watch this dance of three bright planets in the evening sky.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 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.