2023, June 1: Mars Nears Beehive, Bright Planets


June 1, 2023: Marching eastward, Mars nears the Beehive star cluster.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise. Brilliant Venus joins Mars after sundown.

Photo Caption – Sunrise


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:18 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:19 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.

With the opening of the new month, daylight’s length is a minute longer than fifteen hours.  The solstice, and the beginning of summer, is twenty days away, although the weather experts use today as the beginning of meteorological summer.  With the longer daylight, darkness – the length of time from the end of evening twilight to the beginning of morning twilight – is less than seven hours.

Summaries of Current Sky Events


Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 1: Jupiter and Capella are in the eastern sky before daybreak.

Two bright morning planets and a few bright stars shine from the eastern sky an hour before sunrise.  The brightest star in this morning’s sky is Jupiter. An hour before sunrise, find it less than 10° above the eastern horizon.  It is emerging from bright morning twilight into a darker morning sky, rising 105 minutes before the sun.  Find a clear horizon looking eastward.

Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, is over 10° to Jupiter’s upper left and about 15° above the east-northeast horizon.

Capella, Auriga’s brightest star, made its first morning appearance last month. It is lower than Jupiter, but visible in the north-northeast.  Also notice Mirfak, part of Perseus, nearly 20° to the upper right of Capella, the fourth brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes, following Sirius, Arcturus, and Vega.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 1: Saturn and Fomalhaut are in the southeast during morning twilight.

Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is nearly 30° above the southeast horizon and about 20° to the upper right of Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish,” the thirteenth brightest star seen in the skies of the mid-northern latitudes.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 1: Thirty minutes before sunrise, Mercury is low in the east-northeast, to the lower left of Jupiter.

Thirty minutes later, Mercury is low in the east-northeast, over 10° to the lower left of Jupiter.  The speedy planet rises about an hour before sunrise, but it is lost in this season’s morning twilight.  A binocular is needed to see it.

Uranus and Neptune are in the sky with Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury, but they are washed out by the pre-dawn sky, even with the optical assist from a telescope or binocular.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 1: Venus and Mars are in the western sky after nightfall.

Brilliant Venus and Mars are in the western sky after sundown. Venus can be described easily as “that bright star in the west.” The planet sets before midnight in the eastern regions of time zones and after the calendar day changes from western areas.

The Evening Star brightens throughout the month as it slowly overtakes our planet. It reaches its greatest separation from the sun in a few evenings.

Through a telescope, the planet is nearly half-full.  It is 51% illuminated. The evening half-full phase changes to a crescent and grows in size, reaching its greatest size on July 6th.  Around this time, the planet is brightest in the sky.

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

Venus is stepping eastward in front of Gemini, 5.1° to the left of Pollux, one of the Twins.  This evening, the planet is below an imaginary line that starts at Castor, the other Twin, and extends through Pollux.  Tomorrow evening Venus is above that line.  In two evenings, the planet steps into Cancer. Venus is overtaking Mars, 10.6° to the upper left. 

The Red Planet is about the brightness of Castor, but not as bright as when it was closest to Earth on November 30, 2022. Mars is in front of Cancer’s dim stars, near the Beehive star cluster, also known as the Praesepe or manger.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 1: Through a binocular, Mars appears near the Beehive star cluster.

The star cluster is visible with an optical assist in a region free from the perpetual glow of outdoor lighting.  It appears larger than the Full moon.

Through a binocular, Mars is immediately to the lower right of the cluster with two celestial donkeys nearby, Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis.  The animals are supposedly eating from the feed bin. Tomorrow, Mars seems to march through the cluster.

Besides outdoor lighting, the bright moonlight this evening interferes with seeing the star cluster, even through a binocular.  Two nights before the Full moon phase, the lunar orb, 95% illuminated, is less than 30° above the south-southeast horizon.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 1: The bright moon is near Zubenelgenubi after sundown.

The moon is only 2.0° to the lower right of Zubenelgenubi, the southern claw of the classic Scorpion.  The arachnid’s heart, Antares is low in the southeast at his hour.

During the next few evenings, watch the evening planets move compared to the starry background.



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