June 6, 2023: The bright moon is near the Teapot’s handle before sunup. After nightfall, brilliant Venus approaches Mars.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:16 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:23 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:
An hour before sunrise the bright gibbous moon, 93% illuminated, is low in the south-southwest, at the handle of the Teapot of Sagittarius. The phase is clearly no longer full, but the moon easily casts shadows on the ground.
The moon is near the star Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr on the chart). With the moon’s brightness, the Teapot is washed out. Use a binocular to spot the star 0.7° to the upper right of the lunar orb.
For sky watchers in South America and Easter Island, the moon occults or eclipses the star.
Jupiter and Saturn are farther eastward at this hour. Saturn is easier to see, about 30° above the southeast horizon. While it is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, it rivals the visual intensities of the bright stars this morning. The planet is now high enough above the filtering effects of the atmosphere for a good telescopic view, At lower altitudes – height above the horizon – the atmosphere tends to blur and redden astronomical objects. The view of Jupiter through a telescope suffers from that effect.
The Jovian Giant appears higher in the sky each morning as it emerges from bright sunlight into a darker and clearer sky. Look for it over 10° above the east horizon.
The star Fomalhaut, “the mouth of the southern fish,” is about 10° above the south-southeast horizon. Nearby, low in the east-southeast, Deneb Kaitos, the “tail of the sea monster,” is making its first morning appearance.
Thirty minutes before sunrise, Mercury is visible through a binocular. The speedy planet is over 5° above the east-northeast horizon and 20° to Jupiter’s lower left. The planet is brightening, but at this level of morning twilight, it is difficult to see without the binocular’s optical assist.
Two other planets, Uranus and Neptune, are in the sky this morning, but they are too dim to see in this bright twilight.
After sundown, brilliant Venus gleams in the western sky. An hour after nightfall, the Evening Star is over 20° up in the sky and 8.9° to the upper left of Pollux, a Gemini Twin. The planet is stepping eastward in front of Cancer, that seemingly open space between Pollux and Regulus, Leo’s brightest star. Venus is quickly overtaking Mars, 8.7° to the upper left.
The Red Planet is dimmer than might be expected. It is about the brightness of Castor, the other Twin, over 20° to the lower right of the planet.
Mars is still in the same binocular field of view with the Beehive star cluster. The separation is 2.6° with Mars to the upper left of the cluster.
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