2023, June 11: Morning Moon, Planets, Venus Nears Beehive


June 11, 2023: The morning moon appears between Jupiter and Saturn.  After sundown, brilliant Venus approaches the Beehive star cluster.

Photo Caption – The Beehive or Praesepe star cluster (National Science Foundation Photo).


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:26 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

Chart Caption – 2023, June 11: Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon line up in the morning sky before daybreak.

An hour before daybreak, the thick crescent moon, 44% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the sky from the horizon to overhead, in the east-southeastern sky.  The moon is waning and appears farther eastward each morning.  It is about one-third of the way from Saturn, to the moon’s upper right, to bright Jupiter, nearly 15° up in the east.

In three mornings, the moon and Jupiter make a spectacular pair, low in the eastern sky at this hour.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 11: During bright morning twilight, Mercury is above the horizon and to the lower right of Jupiter.

This morning, thirty minutes before daybreak, Mercury is low in the east-northeast, about 5° above the horizon.  It is slipping back into bright sunlight.  The planet is bright, but washed out by this level of twilight.  For Mercury aficionados, get your last looks through a binocular.  The planet begins losing about two minutes of rising time compared to sunrise each morning. This means at the same time interval before sunrise, say 30 minutes, the planet is lower in the sky and as it retreats, it is below the horizon at this interval.  It reaches its superior conjunction with the sun on July 1st.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 11: Brilliant Venus and Mars are in the western sky after sundown.

Brilliant Venus continues to brighten in the western sky after sundown.  It is “that bright star” in the west during evening twilight.  The planet begins its interval of maximum brightness on the 29th. This continues through July 17th.  During the period, the planet increases in brightness.  This is measured through light sensing instruments attached to telescopes, although our eyes cannot see this slight brightness increase.

Venus is stepping eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars, to the upper left of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, and to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.  Like Mercury, it is losing time in the sky compared to sunset.  This evening it sets three hours, three minutes after the sun. In Chicago, that’s before midnight.  For locations farther westward in the time zones, the planet sets when the new calendar day begins.

Dimmer Mars is 7.0° to the upper left of Venus.  It continues its eastward march, but at a slower cadence than Venus. 

Venus appears to be overtaking the Red Planet, but its eastward rate begins to slow and it does not catch Mars.  There is no conjunction.  They are closest, 3.6°, on June 30th. When one planet closes to within 5.0° of another, but it does not pass, this is known as a quasi-conjunction.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 11: Through a binocular, Venus and Mars appear in the same field of view with the Beehive star cluster.

Venus and Mars fit snugly into the same binocular field of view with the Beehive star cluster.  In two evenings, Venus passes 0.8° to the cluster’s upper right.  Watch Venus move through the field of view with the Beehive and continue, for the short time, to close in on Mars.

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