2023, May 26: Moon Occults Star, Planets Parade


May 26, 2023: After sundown, the moon occults or eclipses one of Leo’s stars for many sky watchers across the Americas.  Find Jupiter and Saturn before sunrise, and Venus and Mars after nightfall.

Photo Caption – The Beehive or Praesepe star cluster (National Science Foundation Photo).


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:22 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:14 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:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, May 26: Jupiter and Saturn are in the eastern sky before sunrise. Fomalhaut is to the lower left of the Ringed Wonder.

Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the eastern sky before sunrise.  Saturn is easier to locate, nearly 25° above the southeast horizon at one hour before daybreak.  It is not as dazzlingly bright as Venus or Jupiter, but it is one of the brightest starlike bodies in the sky this morning, after Arcturus, Vega, Capella, and Altair.

Look for the star Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish,” about 6° above the southeast horizon and nearly 20° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder.

Jupiter is beginning to draw notice.  It has been crawling out of brighter twilight.  At this hour the Jovian Giant is nearly 5° above the east horizon, appearing slightly higher each morning.

Mercury is speeding into the morning sky about 30 minutes after Jupiter.  At thirty minutes before sunup, the closest planet to the sun is about 4° above the east-northeast horizon and nearly 9° to the lower left of Jupiter, too far apart to be seen in the same binocular field of view.  Mercury continues to brighten, but appears in the sky during bright twilight.

During the day, Venus, Mars, and the moon rise and seem to follow the sun across the sky.  The morning planets set before the sun, leaving the evening section of the daily planet parade in the darkening sky.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, May 26: After nightfall, Venus and Mars are in the western sky with Procyon, Pollux, Castor, and Capella.

At an hour after sundown, brilliant Venus gleams brightly in the western sky.  Its identification is easy, appearing as “that bright star in the west.”  The planet is highly reflective and it continues to brighten each evening.

The planet is setting earlier compared to the sun, losing one to two minutes each evening through mid-June.  Still setting before midnight in the eastern regions of time zones and after the beginning of the new calendar day in western areas, Venus sets over 210 minutes after night fall.

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

Venus is stepping eastward in front of Gemini’s distant stars, 4.9° to the lower left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins.

Venus is closing the distance to Mars, 13.1° to the upper left of Earth’s Twin.  While they appear somewhat close together in the sky, The Red Planet is two and one-half times farther away than Venus.

Mars is marching eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars.  It is dimmer that Pollux and nearly the same brightness as Castor, the other Twin.  The planet may look dimmer because it is redder.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 26: Mars is near the Beehive star cluster through a binocular.

Use a binocular to see Mars with the Beehive star cluster, an open cluster in the Milky Way’s plane.  The Beehive is also known as the Praesepe or manger.  In the binocular field, look for two celestial donkeys, Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis.

Notice the starfield in the west that includes Procyon, Pollux, Castor, and Capella.  This stellar quartet is part of the bright stellar congregation that shines in the south during winter nights.  The other stars are now in the daytime sky and begin reappearing in the predawn sky during early summer.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 26: The moon is near Regulus after sunset.

The bright moon, 45% illuminated, is over halfway up in the southwest.  The evening half-moon phase (First Quarter) occurs tomorrow at 10:22 a.m. CDT. The lunar orb is 3.7° to the upper right of Regulus, meaning “the prince,” Leo’s brightest star.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 26: Through a binocular, the nearly half-full moon is near the star Eta Leonis (η Leo).

The moon occults or eclipses the star Eta Leonis (η Leo on the chart) for sky watchers in South America, Central America, and the American Southwest.  For sky watchers elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, the moon appears near the star.  Use a binocular or spotting scope to see them together.



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