2023, April 21: Morning Saturn, Evening Moon, Taurus Display

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April 21, 2023: Before sunrise, Saturn is low in the east-southeast.  After sundown, a razor-thin moon appears with Taurus and its Pleiades star cluster.  Venus is nearby along with Mars.

Photo Caption – The crescent moon appears near Venus as the brilliant planet approaches the star Elnath.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:02 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:38 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

SUMMARY FOR VENUS AS AN EVENING STAR

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, April 21: Saturn is in the east-southeast before sunrise.

Saturn continues a slow entry into the morning sky in the east-southeast.  Forty-five minutes before sunrise, the planet is nearly 15° above the horizon.  While not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, it is among the brightest starlike bodies in the sky this morning.

Jupiter follows Saturn out of bright sunlight.  After its conjunction with the sun 10 days ago, it rises only 10 minutes before our central star, gaining two minutes of rising time compared to daybreak.  It makes its first morning appearance next month.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, April 21: Venus, Mercury, and the lunar crescent are in the western sky after sundown.

The crescent moon is visible in the evening sky tonight beneath Venus.  At forty-five minutes after sundown, the Evening Star is nearly 30° up in the west, 7.9° to the upper right of Aldebaran, Taurus’ bright star and nearly 20° to the upper left of the moon.

Photo Caption – 2023, January 23: Evening crescent moon with earthshine.

The razor-thin crescent moon, 4% illuminated, is over 10° above the west-northwest horizon.  It displays earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s features that gently lights up the lunar night.  Its gentle glow is visible to the unassisted human eyes, but helped with a spotting scope or binocular.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 21: Through a binocular, the crescent moon and the Pleiades are snugly in the same field of view.

Through the binocular, the moon and the Pleiades star cluster appear together, although snugly.  This is a pretty sight with or without an optical assist.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 21: Venus appears in a rich Taurus starfield through a binocular.

While the binocular is at hand, notice Venus against the starfield.  This evening it is 1.3° to the upper right of Tau Tauri (τ Tau on the chart).  During the past few evenings, the planet passed outliers of the Hyades star cluster. 

The accompanying chart shows the star Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau).  It is part of the star cluster that with Aldebaran makes a letter “V” outlining the Bull’s head.  The star is at the top of the letter opposite Aldebaran.

Mercury is above the horizon at this hour, but nearly impossible to see. It is over 5° above the horizon and 8.8° to the lower right of the lunar crescent. With the brightness of stars in the Big Dipper, the blush of evening twilight washes out easy views of the planet.

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

Venus continues its eastward step through the constellation toward the Bull’s horns Elnath and Zeta Tauri. Mars was in this region recently.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 21: Mars appears in front of Gemini at the end of evening twilight.

This evening the Red Planet, over halfway up in the west-southwest, is over 30° to the upper left of Venus. Mars is under an arc made by Procyon, Pollux, Castor, and Capella. It is dimming rapidly, but brighter than Pollux. 

Mars is marching eastward in front of Gemini’s distant stars, 10.4° to the lower left of Castor and 10.5° to the lower right of Pollux.  Mars is approaching Wasat – meaning “the middle of the sky.”  The planet is 5.1° to the lower right of the star.

Mars passes nearly 2° to the upper right of Wasat on the 30th, heading toward a wide conjunction with Pollux on May 8th.

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