2023, April 30: Venus at Extremes


April 30, 2023: Brilliant Evening Star Venus is in the western sky after sundown.  It reaches extremes of setting times and setting time intervals during the next several days.

Photo Caption – 2016, August 27: The Venus-Jupiter conjunction


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:49 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:48 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 30: Saturn is in the east-southeast after sundown.

Saturn is the lone bright planet visible before daybreak.  It is slowly climbing in the east-southeastern sky during morning twilight.  The planet rises nearly two hours, thirty minutes before sunrise. Nearly two hours later, the Ringed Wonder is over 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 into the morning sky, but it does not rise early enough to be seen in a dark sky.  It climbs above the eastern horizon nearly 30 minutes before sunup.  By the time the planet is high enough in the sky, it is hidden by the sun’s glare.  It is visible later next month.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, April 30: Venus is cutting between Taurus’ horns in the western sky after sundown.

Mercury is speeding toward an appearance in the morning sky.  It is still east of the sun, but in bright twilight.  The planet passes between Earth and the sun, inferior conjunction, tomorrow afternoon.  Its appearance in the morning sky is unfavorable for easy observation.  At its best during early June, the speedy planet rises only and hour before sunrise and appears low in the sky during twilight.

This evening’s centerpiece is brilliant Venus, “that bright star” in the western sky after sundown.  It continues to brighten and set later each evening. 

Find Venus about 30° up in the west at 45 minutes after sunset. It steps eastward in front of Taurus’ distant stars.  The planet is moving between the Bull’s horns.  This evening it is 3.0° to the lower left of Elnath, also known as Beta Tauri, and 5.2° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri.  The planet passes between them tomorrow evening.

Beginning May 3rd and running through May 5th, Venus sets 223 minutes after sundown, the longest setting interval for this evening apparition.  The latest setting time in Chicago, 11:46 p.m. CDT, occurs May 19th through May 23rd.  On these nights the planet sets after midnight for western regions of time zones.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 30: The gibbous moon is near Denebola, the Lion’s tail.

The bright gibbous moon, 79% illuminated, is over halfway up in the south-southeast, and over 10° to the lower right of Denebola, Leo’s tail. 

The constellation’s dimmer stars, that outline the Lion, are whitewashed by the bright moonlight.  To see the tail, block the moon with your hand or look along the edge of a building.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 30: Mars marches eastward in Gemini below Pollux.

Mars, considerably dimmer than when it was closest to Earth during late 2022, marches eastward against Gemini.  The Red Planet is 6.6° below Pollux, one of the Twins, and over 25° to the upper left of Venus. 

Venus moves eastward faster against the distant starfields than Mars.  Each evening the Evening Star closes the distance to Mars in the sky.  In space they are millions of miles apart, Venus inside Earth’s orbit and Mars outside.

Chart Caption – 2023, April 30: Through a binocular, Mars passes Wasat, the “middle of the sky.”

Through a binocular, Mars is passing the star Wasat, known as “the middle of the sky.”  It lies a fraction of a degree below the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system.

Interestingly, classic planet Pluto was first observed in 1930 when it was near Wasat. With its orbital period of 248 years, Pluto passes this region again in 2178.

In the near future, Venus passes Wasat on May 24th.



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