May 24, 2023: Four planets make a planet parade before sunrise and after sunset. Jupiter and Saturn appear before sunrise, while Venus and Mars are visible after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:23 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:13 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:
The morning section of the planet parade begins before sunrise in the east. Saturn rises nearly three hours, thirty minutes before the sun. That’s about 2 a.m. CDT in Chicago. The rising time can be an hour later in the western regions of time zones. By an hour before sunup, the Ringed Wonder is nearly 25° above the southeast horizon. It is not dazzlingly bright like Venus or Jupiter, but it is among the brightest starlike bodies in the sky this morning.
Look for Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish,” about 20° to the lower right of Saturn and nearly 6° above the horizon.
At this hour bright Jupiter is less than 5° above the east-northeast horizon. It is nearly twenty times brighter than Saturn and easily spotted near the cloudless, unobstructed horizon. It continues its entry into the morning sky.
It should be noted that Neptune is part of this parade. Because it is beyond the limit of eyesight and bathed in the blush of mid-twilight, this planet is very challenging, if not impossible to locate this morning. It is about one-third of the way from Saturn to Jupiter.
Mercury is emerging from its solar conjunction into the eastern morning sky, but its appearance next month is very unfavorable for sky watchers at the mid-northern latitudes. This speedy planet rises only 30 minutes after Jupiter, but is awash in bright sunlight when it is high enough to be seen.
Venus, Mars, and the moon rise during the day and follow the sun across the sky. The moon rises during the mid-morning and can be easily seen east of the sun during the afternoon.
The two morning planets set before the sun, leaving two bright planets, Venus and Mars, and the moon in the west after nightfall. An hour after sundown, the crescent moon, 27% illuminated, is less than halfway up in the sky and 4.2° above Mars. They fit into the same binocular field of view.
Look for earthshine on the night portion of the moon from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land. This effect decreases as the moon’s phase waxes. From the moon, Earth’s phase is waning and reflecting less light than a few nights ago.
Mars, about the brightness of Castor, one of the Gemini Twins, is marching eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars. Return to this region with a binocular when the sky is darker. Mars, the lunar crescent, and the Beehive star cluster are in the same field of view. Mars treks toward this stellar bunch appearing to pass through it on June 2nd. On this date the moon is two days before the Full phase that whitewashes the sky. The cluster is visible at these times, but it is not as distinct through the binocular when the moon is at its crescent phases.
That bright star in the west is Venus, about 25° above the west-northwest horizon and less than 20° to the lower right of the lunar orb. It is stepping eastward in front of Gemini, 6.2° below Pollux, the other Twin. It passes the star in a wide conjunction on the 29th.
Venus continues to close the gap to Mars. This evening the separation is less than 14°. Watch this gap close each evening and note Mars changing position compared to the Beehive through a binocular.
The evening planet parade ends as Venus sets before midnight in Chicago and other locales in the eastern regions of their time zones. For sky watchers in time zones’ western regions, the planet sets over an hour later. Mars sets about forty-five minutes after the Evening Star.
- 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.