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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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- 2023, October 14: Solar Eclipse, Morning PlanetsOctober 14, 2023: A solar eclipse is visible across the western hemisphere. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise.
- 2023, October 13: Moon’s Last Glimpse, Bright Morning PlanetsOctober 13, 2023: Before tomorrow’s eclipse, see a razor-thin moon before sunrise. Venus and Jupiter shine brightly during morning twilight.
- 2023, October 12: Bright Morning Planets Bookend Stellar SpectacularOctober 12, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus and Jupiter bracket the Milky Way’s bright Orion region.
- 2023, October 11: Morning Earthshine, LeoOctober 11, 2023: The morning’s thin lunar crescent displays earthshine as it appears near the constellation Leo.