2023, May 19: Morning Planets, Evening Planet Derby

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May 19, 2023: Four bright planets are visible during the night.  Jupiter and Saturn are in the eastern sky before daybreak, while Venus and Mars race eastward after sundown.

Photo Caption – 2022, February 18: Venus and Mars in southeast before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:27 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:08 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.

The moon is New today at 10:53 a.m. CDT. This begins lunation 1242, the number of moon phase cycles since 1923. Tomorrow evening, a razor-thin crescent moon appears less than 10° above the western horizon after sunset.

Summaries of Current Sky Events

SUMMARY FOR VENUS AS AN EVENING STAR

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Two stars, Capella and Fomalhaut, are making their first morning appearances.  Capella, the fourth brightest star in the skies of the mid-northern latitudes, is in the north-northeast near the horizon, while Fomalhaut is in the southeast below Saturn.

Bright Jupiter is making its way into the morning sky as well, about five weeks after its conjunction with the sun. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, the Jovian Giant is low in the eastern sky.  It is nearly 5° above the horizon and easily visible at this level of morning twilight with a favorable view toward that horizon.

Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is nearly 25° up in the southeast and over 50° to the upper right of Jupiter.  The Ringed Wonder is easier to see above the atmosphere’s filtering effects, that blurs and reddens the view through a telescope.

Mercury follows Jupiter into the eastern morning sky, rising less than 30 minutes after the giant planet.  By thirty minutes before sunup, the speedy planet is a few degrees above the horizon and over 6° to the lower left of Jupiter.  It is dim and lost in the glare of approaching sunrise.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, May 19: Venus and Mars appear in the west with Castor, Pollux, Procyon, and Capella.

Venus continues to chase Mars eastward in the evening sky.  Venus is “that bright star” that is in the western sky after nightfall.  Setting before midnight in Chicago, and later in the western extremes of the North American time zones, the planet is easily mistaken for lights on a low-flying airplane.

Mars, over 15° to the upper left of the Evening Star and 8.4° to the upper left of Pollux, is marching eastward in front of the dim stars of western Cancer.  The Red Planet is fading in brightness, now about Castor’s intensity.  Appearing slightly red, the planet likely appears dimmer than the star to the unaided eye.

By ninety minutes after sundown, when the fainter stars of the region are visible, Gemini’s stick figures are visible as well as Auriga and Canis Minor.

Notice that Capella is appearing after sunset in the northwestern sky as well as before sunrise.  Stars that are northward in the sky show this pattern.  Others that are farther north, yet, never set, and appear in the sky all night long.

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