May 7, 2023: Before sunrise, the moon occults or eclipses the star Al Niyat, near Antares in Scorpius, across western North America. Venus steps into western Gemini this evening.
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:
This morning the bright moon, 97% illuminated, is low in the south-southwest. It stands in front of Scorpius, 2.6° to the right of Antares, the pattern’s brightest star.
With the moonlight’s intensity, it might be necessary to block the moon with your hand to see Antares. The star Al Niyat, also known as Sigma Scorpii, is only 0.6° to the left of the lunar orb.
This morning, the moon occults Al Niyat, for sky watchers in western North America. For Chicago sky watchers, the occultation begins about 20 minutes before sunrise. The time interval is later for farther west observers. A telescope is needed to attempt this sighting in the bright sky before dawn. Farther westward, the moon is higher in a darker sky. A binocular or spotting scope can be used to track the progress of the occultation for those in western North America.
Through a binocular, notice the star cluster, Messier 4 (M 4 on the chart). This stellar bunch is different from the star cluster that Venus appears near during the evening. Messier 4 is a globular cluster. The stars seem to be older and have slightly different chemicals from the galactic clusters like the Pleiades or Messier 35. Globulars revolve around the galaxy in an orbital path outside the galactic plane.
If the sky is too bright from moonlight to see Messier 4, return when the moon is dimmer. Put Antares in the center of the field of view, the star cluster is nearby, having a cotton ball appearance.
Farther eastward, Saturn is in the southeast. Wait fifteen minutes to see the planet higher in the sky. Rising two hours, forty minutes before the sun, Saturn is nearly 20° above the horizon. It rises two minutes earlier compared to sunrise.
Jupiter continues to emerge from bright sunlight into the morning sky. Rising about two hours after Saturn, the Jovian Giant is nearly 2° above the east-northeast horizon at thirty minutes before daybreak, not yet easily visible.
Mercury follows Jupiter, rising twenty-five minutes after the giant planet. The speedy world is currently a “lost cause” for attempting to see it. Mercury aficionados can find it low in the eastern sky early next month.
Brilliant Venus stands about 30° up in the western sky at forty-five minutes after nightfall. Quite simply, it is “that bright star” in the western sky. The planet is 8.2° to the upper left of Elnath, Taurus’ northern horn, and 7.2° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn.
This evening Venus steps into Gemini and appears in front of the stars until June 2nd. Look each clear evening to locate the planet with the background starfield.
Use a binocular to spot the galactic star cluster Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart). Place Venus at the center of the field of view. The star cluster is 2.6° to the left of the planet. Once located, place the star cluster in the center of the field of view for a better view.
Mars is marching eastward in front of Gemini, over 20° to the upper left of Venus. The gap between the worlds closes each night.
The Red Planet is 5.0° to the lower left of Pollux. Tomorrow night, it passes the star in a wide conjunction. The separation tomorrow is slightly smaller than this evening.
With the bright moon rising nearly three hours after nightfall, look for Venus, Mars, and Gemini when the sky is darker, near the end of evening twilight. The Twins resemble two side-by-side stick figures.
Around midnight, the bright waning gibbous moon, 92% illuminated, is less than 10° above the southeastern horizon, nearly 10° to the lower left of Antares. While it appears near the bright stars in Scorpius, the moon is in front of the constellation Ophiuchus.
Look for the moon tomorrow before sunrise, appearing above the Scorpion’s stinger and west of the Teapot of Sagittarius.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 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.