2023, June 12: Lunar Hopscotch, Evening Planets Bunch with Beehive


June 12, 2023: The morning moon appears to be playing hopscotch from Saturn to Jupiter. After nightfall brilliant Venus and Mars group with the Beehive star cluster.

Photo Caption: 2022, June 24: The crescent moon with earthshine before sunrise.


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.

For the second day, the earliest sunrise occurs in Chicago.  This continues through the 19th.  The latest sunset, 8:30 p.m. CDT, begins on the 23rd and occurs for nine days.

Summaries of Current Sky Events


Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 12: Thirty minutes before sunrise, Mercury is low in the east-northeast, to the lower left of Jupiter.

An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 34% illuminated, is over 20° above the east-southeast horizon, less than halfway from Jupiter, about 15° up in the east, to Saturn, over twice Jupiter’s altitude in the southeast.

Photo Caption – 2020, December 10: The moon is to the upper left of Spica.

This morning and for the next few days, look for earthshine on the night portion of the moon.  This effect is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that gently illuminates the lunar night.  As the moon wanes, Earth – as seen from the moon – is waxing toward the Full earth phase and reflecting more light toward the moon each morning.

Jupiter continues to emerge from bright twilight, rising earlier each morning.  It is not yet high enough in the sky for good telescopic views.  The lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere blurs and reddens the planet, like when the sun and moon are near the horizon.

Saturn is not as bright as Jupiter, but among the brightest stars in the sky this morning.  It is slowly moving eastward in front of Aquarius’ dim stars.   Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish,” is about 20° to the lower right of Saturn. Deneb Kaitos, Cetus’ tail, is about 10° up in the southeast.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 12: Thirty minutes before sunrise, Mercury is low in the east-northeast, to the lower left of Jupiter.

Thirty minutes later, Mercury is less than 5° above the horizon and more than 25° to the lower left of Jupiter.  The planet is a challenge to see even with a binocular.  It is bright but immersed in the bright eastern light of approaching dawn.  On the 16th, the crescent moon is in the same binocular field with Mercury.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 12: Brilliant Venus and Mars are in the western sky after nightfall.

Brilliant Venus is the gleaming star in the western sky after sunset.  It is approaching its brightest visual intensity.  It outshines all other bodies in the sky except for the sun and the moon.  Its brilliance rivals lights on low-flying aircraft.

Venus is stepping eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars, to the upper left of Pollux and Castor, the Gemini Twins, and to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.  It is 6.7° to the lower right of dimmer Mars.

Venus continues to close the gap to the Red Planet, but no conjunction is in the forecast.  Venus closes to 3.6° near month’s end, but the gap begins to widen again.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 12: Through a binocular, find Venus, Mars, and the Beehive star cluster.

Venus and Mars appear in the same binocular field of view as the Beehive star cluster, also known as the Praesepe or manger.  Two stars that represent celestial donkeys, Asellus Australis and Asellus Borealis, seem to eat from the manger.

Tomorrow evening, Venus passes to the upper right of the Beehive.


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