April 19, 2023: A solar eclipse occurs in the Eastern Hemisphere, during the overnight hours in the Americas. Venus passes Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star, after nightfall.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:05 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:36 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.
The moon is New this evening at 11:12 p.m. CDT, beginning lunation 1241, the number of lunar cycles since the counting system began in 1923.
At this hour (April 20th for the affected sky watchers), a hybrid eclipse, part total and part annular occurs from the southern Indian Ocean, across western Australia and Indonesia, and ending southeast of the Marshall Islands. For large swaths of the Eastern Hemisphere, a partial eclipse is visible, that includes Australia, and parts of New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and eastern China. The hybrid nature occurs when the moon is too far away from Earth for the lunar orb to completely obscure the sun, leaving a ring of sunlight, while for other parts of the eclipse path the moon matches the sun size, revealing the sun’s corona. A total eclipse occurs there. For our readers and podcast listeners in this region, see details about the eclipse at eclipsewise.com.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Saturn is the lone bright planet in the morning sky. Find it nearly 15° above the east-southeast horizon at forty-five minutes before daybreak. The planet rises about two minutes earlier each morning.
Jupiter becomes visible before sunrise next month. After solar conjunction, the Jovian Giant is slowly climbing from bright sunlight
Brilliant Venus dominates the evening western sky. At forty-five minutes after sundown, the Evening Star is nearly 30° up in the sky. It is “that bright star in the western sky.”
The planet is stepping eastward in Taurus.
This evening it is over 10° to the upper left of the Pleiades star cluster and 7.4° to the upper left of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star. This is the evening of the Venus-Aldebaran conjunction. Their next conjunction, June 1, 2024, occurs when sunlight blocks the view. The next easily visible conjunction is Jul 13, 2025, before sunrise, when the gap from Venus to Aldebaran is 3.2°.
Through a binocular, Venus is moving through a rich starfield that includes outliers of the Hyades star cluster. Aldebaran and the stellar bundle seem to make a letter “V” that outlines the Bull’s head.
Many of the stars that are on the celestial backdrop do not have formal names, but many are cataloged with Greek letters. Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau on the chart) is at the top of the “V,” opposite Aldebaran. Kappa Tauri (κ Tau) and Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau) are about 2° below the Evening Star. Tau Tauri (τ Tau) is the next stellar milepost that Venus passes.
Mercury is quickly fading from view, appearing dimmer and lower in the sky each evening. A week ago, the planet was among the brightest starlike bodies in the evening sky, but it dims as it begins to overtake our planet on an orbital path closer to the sun than Earth. This evening it is less than 8° above the west-northwest horizon and nearly 25° to the lower right of Venus. In two nights, the planet begins to retrograde, move west compared to the sidereal background.
The planet is not visible to unassisted human eyes. Use a binocular and this may be the last evening to locate it.
The third bright planet in this evening’s sky is Mars. It is over 30° to the upper left of Venus, 2.8° to the upper left of Mebsuta, and over 11° to the lower left of Castor. The Red Planet is marching eastward against Gemini. It is visible 45 minutes after sunset, but look for it later, when twilight ends and the constellation’s fainter stars are visible. The Twins resemble two stick figures.
Mars is generally moving toward Pollux, passing it on May 8th.
Watch Venus continue to cut the gap to Mars.
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