2023, June 5: Balanced Moon


June 5, 2023: Before sunrise, the moon seems balanced on the spout of the Teapot.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible before daybreak, while Venus closes the gap to Mars.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 5: The bright gibbous moon seems balanced on the Teapot’s spout before sunrise.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:17 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:22 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

An hour before sunrise, the bright moon, 98% illuminated, is low in the south-southwest.  While the nearby stars are mostly washed out by the bright moonlight, the lunar orb seems to be balanced in the spout of the Teapot of Sagittarius.

Tomorrow morning, the moon occults or eclipses the star Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr on the chart), a star on the pot’s handle, for sky watchers in South America and Easter Island.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 5: Jupiter and Saturn are in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Jupiter and Saturn are farther eastward this morning, gleaming in morning twilight.  Jupiter, the brighter of the pair, is 10.0° up in the east.  It continues to rise earlier and appear higher in the sky before sunrise.

Saturn, nearly 30° above the southeast horizon, is about 20° to the upper left of the star Fomalhaut.  Through a telescope, the Ringed Wonder is high enough in the sky to easily see its rings and a few of its brighter moons.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 5: Thirty minutes before daybreak, Jupiter and Mercury are in the eastern sky.

Thirty minutes later, during bright twilight, Mercury is over 5° above the east-northeast horizon, and over 15° to Jupiter’s lower left.  The light from the approaching sunrise washes out Mercury to the unassisted eye.  It is visible through a binocular.  Today and during the next few mornings, this is the best view of Mercury.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 5: Venus and Mars are in the west between Pollux and Regulus after sundown.

Two planets are in the west during the evening hours.  At an hour after sundown, brilliant Venus outshines all other stars in the sky.  It is over 20° up in the west, to the upper left of Castor and Pollux. 

Setting more than three hours after sundown, Venus is losing two to three minutes of setting time each evening.

Through a telescope, the planet’s phase is a thick crescent, 48% illuminated. Its phase continues to decrease and grow larger as Venus overtakes our planet.  The shrinking crescent reaches its largest size on July 6th.  Known as the “greatest illuminated extent,” Venus covers the largest area of the sky. (For a semi-technical article see this source.)  This corresponds to the time when the planet appears brightest.

Venus and Mars are moving eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars.  On the accompanying chart the constellation, occupying the space between Pollux and Regulus – Leo’s brightest star – is made of dimmer stars that are a challenge to see from regions with the perpetual glow of outdoor lighting.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 5: Through a binocular, Mars is to the upper left of the Beehive star cluster.

Mars, 9.1° to the upper left of Venus is about the brightness of Castor, a Gemini Twin, to the lower right.  While the two planets are too far apart to fit into the same binocular field of view, Mars appears near the Beehive star cluster, a nice view with a binocular as the sky darkens further.  The planet is 2.0° to the upper left of the cluster this evening.

In six evenings when Venus further closes the gap to the Red Planet, Venus and Mars tightly fit into the same binocular field that includes the Beehive.

The moon rises nearly two and a half hours after sundown.  As noted in the morning section, it appears near a star in the handle of the Teapot tomorrow morning.



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