May 20, 2023: Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise, while Venus and Mars shine after nightfall. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:26 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:09 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:
Four bright planets are visible during the nighttime hours. Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise, while Venus and Saturn are seen after sundown.
Jupiter and Capella are becoming easier to see each morning. Jupiter is nearly 5° above the eastern horizon at forty-five minutes before daybreak. While it is just above the horizon, it is easy to locate through the blush of morning twilight.
Similarly, the star Capella makes its morning appearance in the north-northeast at the same time. It is nearly the same altitude – height above the horizon – as Jupiter, but the star is not as bright. A binocular may be needed to initially locate it. Its visibility depends on the clarity of the sky and any obstructions in the local terrain.
At the same hour, Saturn and the star Fomalhaut are in the southeastern sky. The Ringed Wonder is nearly 25° above the horizon, while the star is over 5° up in the sky.
The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky, appearing higher and with a thicker phase. At forty-five minutes after sundown, the razor thin crescent moon, 2% illuminated, is less than 10° above the west-northwest horizon. The phase is easy to see, but a binocular may assist with the initial identification. The crescent is 7.3° to the lower right of Elnath, Taurus’ northern horn and nearly 30° to the lower right of brilliant Venus.
The Evening Star is the brightest starlike body in the sky tonight and can be easily described as “that bright star” in the west. It sets before midnight in Chicago and other locales in the eastern regions of their time zones and after midnight for sky watchers in the western areas of the time zones.
Note Betelgeuse, 5.0° above the western horizon. It fades into bright evening twilight in a few evenings, reappearing in the eastern sky during summer mornings.
Mars is over 15° to the upper left of Venus and 8.4° to the upper left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins. The Red Planet is marching eastward in Cancer. It has the same brightness as Pollux, the other Twin.
By ninety minutes after nightfall, when the dimmer stars are visible, Venus stands against Gemini, that takes the shape of two side-by-side stick figures. It is 9.4° to the lower left of Castor and 5.2° to the lower right of Wasat, meaning “the middle of the sky.” The star is very close to the plane of the solar system. The moon and planets appear very close to it in regular cycles.
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