May 28, 2023: Jupiter and Saturn are easily visible before sunrise. After nightfall, Venus and Mars are in the western sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:20 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:16 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 shine from the eastern sky before sunrise. Sixty minutes before sunup, bright Jupiter is over 5° above the eastern horizon. It continues its slow emergence from bright sunlight into the morning sky. From an observing spot free from obstructions near the horizon, the Jovian Giant is easy to see without a binocular.
Saturn, considerably dimmer than Jupiter but brighter than most stars in the sky this morning, is over 25° up in the southeast. The Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° to the upper left of Fomalhaut that is nearly 7° above the horizon, slightly higher than Jupiter’s altitude – height above the horizon.
Mercury, nearing its greatest separation from the sun, rises over 30 minutes after Jupiter. By thirty minutes before sunrise, the speedy planet is nearly 5° above the east-northeast horizon and about 10° to the lower left of Jupiter. The gap is too wide for both planets to fit into the same binocular field of view.
Mercury’s morning appearance is a disappointing view. At its maximum rising time interval compared to sunrise, the planet rises sixty-two minutes before the sun and appears in the eastern sky. It is a binocular object throughout this apparition.
The bright gibbous moon, 64% illuminated, is over halfway up in the sky in the south-southeast, whitewashing the sky. It is in front of western Virgo, nearly 10° to the lower left of Denebola, Leo’s tail. The lunar orb is less than halfway from Regulus to Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.
Farther westward, brilliant Venus gleams in the west. It is the brightest starlike body in the sky. It can be simply described as “that bright star” in the western sky after sunset. The planet sets before midnight in Chicago and for sky watchers in the eastern regions of their time zones and after midnight for those farther westward in their time divisions.
The planet is stepping eastward in front of Gemini, 4.0° to the lower left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins. Venus passes the star tomorrow evening at a distance slightly closer than tonight’s separation. Of course, Venus is considerably closer than the star. In the sky they appear close together, but in space the gap is trillions of miles.
Venus is closing a gap to Mars, 12.2° to the upper left of the Evening Star. In the case of this planetary duo, they are millions of miles apart in space. Venus is over two and one-half times farther away. Venus is overtaking our planet on an orbital path that is closer to the sun. It is brightening in the sky, while Mars dims as our planet pulls away from it.
Mars is marching eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars, over 12° to the upper left of Pollux. Return to the sky with a binocular when the sky darkens further. Even with the bright moon, find the Beehive star cluster, also known as the Praesepe or manger, Asellus Borealis, and Asellus Australis.
Each evening watch Venus step farther eastward, passing Pollux and moving away from it. Through a binocular, Mars marches toward the Beehive, appearing to pass through it on June 2nd.
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