2023, May 4: May the 4th Planets


May 4, 2023: Saturn is visible before sunrise, while Jupiter and Mercury are in bright sunlight.  The evening’s spectacle, Venus, and Mars are in the west after sundown.

Photo Caption – May 4, 2018: Venus in the western evening sky.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:43 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:52 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, May 4: Saturn is in the east-southeast during morning twilight.

Saturn is easier to see each morning. It picks up two minutes of rising time compared to daily sunrise.  At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° above the east-southeast horizon.  While not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, it is among the morning’s brightest “stars.”

At this hour, the bright moon might be visible very low in the west-southwest.

Jupiter is slowly emerging from bright sunlight into the morning sky. It rises thirty-six minutes before the sun and nearly two hours after Saturn.  By the time the Jovian Giant is high enough to be seen, sunlight overwhelms our view.

Mercury, moving toward the morning sky after its inferior conjunction between Earth and the sun, is deeper in sunlight than Jupiter.  The innermost planet rises only 10 minutes before the sun.  Its morning appearance next month is an unfavorable sight as it is very low in the sky during morning twilight.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, May 4: The moon is between Spica and Zubenelgenubi after sundown.

The nearly-full moon is nearly 15° up in the southeast during the early evening.  The lunar orb reaches the Full phase, known as the Flower Moon this month, tomorrow at 12:34 p.m. CDT.

The moon is nearly 13° to the lower left of Spica, meaning “the ear of corn,” and 8.6° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi – one of the Scorpion’s claws that is part of Libra on today’s celestial maps.

The moonlight overwhelms the dimmer stars.  To see the fainter stars, use your hand to block the moon as you would to shield your eyes from the sun.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 4: Venus, in the western sky after sundown, is east of the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri.

Venus is the sensation of this season’s western sky.  At forty-five minutes after sundown, the planet is nearly 30° above the horizon. Stepping eastward in front of the stars in eastern Taurus, the planet is noticeably east of the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri.  It is 5.1° to the upper left of Elnath and 5.2° to the upper right of Zeta.

Venus is setting at its maximum interval after sundown, 223 minutes.  For sky watchers in the western regions of the time zones, the planet sets after midnight.  For Chicago sky watchers, the planet sets about 20 minutes before the midnight hour.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 4: Mars, about halfway up in the west, is approaching a conjunction with Pollux.

Mars, over halfway up in the west and 24.0° to the upper left of Venus, marches eastward in Gemini.  The planet is 5.5° to the lower left of Pollux, a Gemini Twin.  Mars passes the star in a wide conjunction in four nights.

The Red Planet continues to fade in brightness, tonight dimmer than Pollux but brighter than Castor, the other Twin.

Watch Venus continue to overtake Mars in the evening.  When does Venus catch it?



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