May 6, 2023: The moon appears to move among the Scorpion’s bright stars. Saturn is visible before sunrise, while Venus and Mars shine from the west after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:41 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:55 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:
On this night of the Full Flower Moon, the bright lunar orb is low in the southwest this morning, between the Scorpion’s southern claw, Zubenelgenubi, and head. An hour before daybreak the moon is over 10° above the horizon and 8.9° to the left of the southern pincer. The moon is over 15° to the lower right of the Scorpion’s heart, marked by Antares.
The bright moonlight whitewashes the dimmer stars. Block the moon with your hand to see them.
At this hour Saturn is in the southeast. Wait about 15 minutes to see it higher in the sky. Then it is nearly 20° above the horizon. It is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter. This morning it is about the same brightness as Antares.
Jupiter is slowly emerging from bright sunlight after its solar conjunction on April 11th. It rises 40 minutes before the sun and about two hours after Saturn. By the time it is high enough to be visible, the Jovian Giant is in bright daylight.
Mercury, moving toward a difficult-to-see appearance in the morning sky next month, rises fifteen minutes before the sun.
Venus brilliantly shines from the western sky after sundown. It is in front of the stars of eastern Taurus, above (east of) the horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri. At forty-five minutes after nightfall, the planet is about 30° above the horizon, 7.1° to the upper left of Elnath and 6.4° to the upper right of Zeta. Tomorrow the Evening Star steps into Gemini as it continues to close the gap to Mars.
With a binocular center Venus and find the star cluster cataloged as Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart) to the upper left region in the field of view. Once located, move the binocular so the cluster is centered.
Messier 35 appears dimmer than the famous Pleiades star cluster because it is nearly seven times farther away than the more famous stellar bunch. On the sky, it is about the diameter of a Full moon, but its actual width is about 30 light years. In his Celestial Handbook, Robert Burnham describes the appears of the cluster, “Several authors have commented on the tendency of the stars [in the cluster] to occur in curved rows, reminding one of the bursting of a sky rocket” (p. 936).
Star clusters are used to determine stellar distances and ages. With the stars at nearly the same distance, measurement techniques can be refined. Further, with the stars formed at about the same time, models of stellar cycles can be developed and refined for how fast stars change from the consumption of nuclear fuel at their cores.
While the moon rises over ninety minutes after sunset, wait until the sky darkens further to see Gemini’s dimmer stars. The stars seem to make two side-by-side stick figures. At ninety minutes after the sun sets, Mars is less than halfway up in the west and 5.1° to the lower left of Pollux, one of the Twins. The planet passes the star in two evenings. Venus is over 20° to the lower right of the Red Planet.
For sky watchers in South America and south of the equator, the moon covers or occults Dscubba, also known as Delta Scorpii, during the early evening hours.
An occultation is a type of eclipse, except in this instance the eclipsing body is larger than the eclipsed object. Normally we think of the moon eclipsing the sun, creating a spectacular scene when the sun’s corona is visible.
Tomorrow morning, the moon occults the star Al Niyat, also known as Sigma Scorpii, for sky watchers in western North America. For Chicago sky watchers, the occultation begins about 20 minutes before sunrise. A telescope is needed to attempt this sighting with the sky very bright. Farther westward, the moon is higher and the sky darker. A binocular or spotting scope can be used to track the progress of the occultation.
This evening, the moon, 97% illuminated, is about 10° up in the southeast at three hours after sunset. It is between Dschubba and Antares. Block the moonlight with your hand to see the stars.
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