April 23, 2023: Brilliant Venus and the lunar crescent decorate the western evening sky with Taurus’ bright starfields. Saturn is visible before sunup.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:59 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:40 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:
Saturn is the lone bright planet in the sky before sunrise. At forty-five minutes before daybreak, the planet is nearly 15° up in the east-southeast. The planet is not exceptionally bright like Venus or Jupiter, but it rivals the brightest stars this morning.
Jupiter is slowly moving into the morning sky after its solar conjunction. The planet gains about two minutes of rising time compared to sunrise each morning. Today it rises 15 minutes before sunup, too late to be seen in a darker sky.
This evening, find a wonderous celestial scene in the western sky. The best views begin about 45 minutes after sunset.
The crescent moon, 16% illuminated, is nearly 35° up in the western sky and 5.6° to the upper left of Venus. Look carefully for Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn, 3.2° above the crescent. Last night the moon’s phase was thinner and the lunar orb appeared between Venus and the Pleiades star cluster.
Each evening the moon appears higher in the sky, has a thicker phase, and moves farther eastward.
Notice earthshine on the moon’s nighttime portion. This is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that gently lights the lunar night. A binocular or spotting scope helps with the effect, but the glow can be seen without assistance.
Through the binocular, the crescent and Venus easily fit into the same field of view. This is a lovely scene, with or without a binocular.
The Evening Star is stepping eastward in front of Taurus. This evening it is 8.9° to the upper right of Aldebaran, the Bull’s brightest star and nearly 15° to the upper left of the Pleiades star cluster.
Capture the scene with a tripod-mounted camera and exposures up to a few seconds, depending on the camera’s operating characteristics, such as f/stop and ASA settings.
Mercury is fading in brightness and quickly leaving the evening sky. Earlier in the month, it was brighter than most stars, but now it is washed out by the blush of evening twilight. It passes between Earth and the sun in a week and moves into the morning sky.
Mars is high in the western sky, 25.0° to the upper left of the lunar crescent, 4.9° to the upper left of Mebsuta, 4.1° to the lower right of Wasat, and 9.6° below Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins. The Red Planet is marching eastward in front of Gemini, passing Pollux in a wide conjunction on May 8th.
Mars is dimming from a widening space between our world and the planet. This evening it is dimmer than Pollux, but brighter than Castor. The planet is visible with the beautiful scene that includes the moon and Venus in twilight during the early evening, look for it again when the sky is darker and Gemini’s dimmer stars are visible. The Twins are two side-by-side stick figures.
Tomorrow evening the crescent is wider and appears closer to Mars.
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