May 2, 2023: Venus sparkles in the western evening sky after sunset, along with a bright gibbous moon in the southeast.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:46 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:50 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 appears in the east-southeast before sunrise. Find it about 15° above the horizon at 45 minutes before sunup. It rises two minutes earlier each day compared to sunrise.
Jupiter slowly joins the Ringed Wonder in the eastern morning sky. Still climbing out of bright sunlight, the Jovian Giant rises over 30 minutes before the sun. By the time its high enough to be seen, the planet is lost in daylight’s glare.
Speedy Mercury is racing toward a difficult-to-see morning appearance. Passing between Earth and the sun yesterday, the planet rises only a few minutes before the sun.
Before the bright moon shines in the western sky before sunrise, note the location of the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair and Deneb. Each star belongs to its respective constellation, but the larger pattern makes its first evening appearance near the summer solstice.
Vega, at the triangle’s western vertex, is nearly at the zenith, overhead. The star is the third brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes. At a distance of 25 light years, it is one of the sun’s nearer neighbors. It shines with a luminescence of nearly 50 suns.
Altair, over halfway up in the south-southeast, is the eighth brightest star for northern sky watchers. At a distance of 17 light years, the star is about 10 times brighter than the sun.
Deneb, high in the eastern sky, is one of the brightest stars in this part of the galaxy. It ranks as the fourteenth brightest star and shines with the brightness of 48,000 suns. Its intensity is reduced for earthbound sky watchers because is it about 1,500 light years distant.
Brilliant Venus is the showpiece of the season. It shines in the western sky after sundown. At forty-five minutes after the sun sets, it is about 30° above the horizon.
The planet is east of the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri, and stepping toward the Gemini border. It crosses into Gemini on May 7th.
Venus nears its maximum setting time after sunset, 223 minutes. Beginning tomorrow and lasting through the 15th, the planet sets at its maximum northern point, just 8° from the northwest direction. This is 5° farther north along the horizon than the sun sets at the summer solstice.
Look for Rigel, part of Orion. It is low in the western sky, near the horizon. This may be the last night to see it before it moves into the morning sky during the summer months.
Venus’ steps eastward at a speed nearly twice Mars’ rate. This evening the Red Planet marches eastward about 25° to the upper left of Venus and 6.0° to the lower left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins.
The stars are muted by the bright moon in the eastern sky. The lunar orb, 93% illuminated, is less than halfway up in the southeast, and nearly 15° to the upper right of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.
Tomorrow evening look for the moon beside Spica.
- 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.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.