2023, May 11: Moon Nears Saturn, Evening Planets, Gemini


May 11, 2023: Before sunrise, the moon approaches Saturn in the southeastern sky.  After nightfall, brilliant Venus and Mars are in the west with Gemini.

Venus and Mars
Photo Caption – A close approach of Venus and Mars, yet no conjunction. Mars outside the limits of Venus maximum separation from the sun.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:35 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:00 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.

In Chicago, the sun sets at 8:00 p.m. CDT.  Sunset time continues to increase until June 23rd.  Sunset sets before 8:00 p.m. beginning August 9th.

Summaries of Current Sky Events

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Chart Caption – 2023, May 11: Saturn and the moon are in the southeastern sky before daybreak.

Morning Sky

This morning the moon begins to approach Saturn in the southeastern sky before sunrise. The lunar orb, 64% illuminated, is over 20° above the south-southeast horizon and over 30° to the right of Saturn.

The Ringed Wonder is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – as the moon.  The planet is not blazingly bright like Venus or Jupiter, but it ranks among the brightest stars in the sky this morning.

Jupiter continues to emerge from bright sunlight into the morning sky.  Jupiter aficionados can find it with a binocular over 3° above the eastern horizon at 30 minutes before daybreak.

Mercury is making its way into the morning sky.  Rising about 25 minutes after Jupiter, this speedy planet is washed out by sunlight.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – Venus moves in front of Gemini, May 7-June 2, 2023.

Evening Star Venus stands in the western sky after nightfall.  Simply described, it is “that bright star” in the west.  The planet is stepping eastward in front of Gemini’s stars. It is 3.6° to the upper right of Tejat Posterior (μ Gem on the chart) and 3.8° to the upper right of Propus (η Gem).

Chart Caption – 2023, May 11: Venus and the star cluster Messier 35 are visible through a binocular.

Through a binocular, Venus is 3.1° above a star cluster cataloged as Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart).  This cluster is a galactic or open cluster.  They lie in the plane of the galaxy, in the Milky Way’s spiral arms. Scan the area around the cluster with the binocular to see a myriad of stars.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 11: Venus and Mars are visible against Gemini’s stars after nightfall.

Mars, marching eastward 5.3° to the lower left of Pollux, is over 20° to the upper left of Venus.  The Red Planet is dimmer than Pollux, but brighter than Castor.

Mars is visible earlier during the evening, but wait until later when the sky is darker to see the Gemini Twins that appears as two side-by-side stick figures.

The gap between the two planets closes each night. Just a month ago, the planets were nearly 38° apart.  

Watch Venus appear to close that gap each clear evening.



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