June 13, 2023: The crescent moon is near Jupiter in the eastern sky before sunrise. After sundown, Venus passes the Beehive star cluster. Use a binocular.
PODCAST FOR THIS ARTICLE
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:27 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 a third day, the earliest sunrise occurs this morning. 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:
An hour before sunrise, a lovely crescent moon, 23% illuminated, is nearly 20° up in the east. It is 10.4° to the upper right of bright Jupiter.
The Jovian Giant continues to emerge from bright sunlight into a darker morning sky. It rises two and one-half hours before the sun. Jupiter is moving slowly in front of Aries, 11.2° to the lower right of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
The moon shows earthshine on its night portion. Sunlight reflects from Earth’s oceans, clouds and land to gently illuminate the lunar night. It is visible to the unassisted eye, but beautiful through a binocular or spotting scope. Photograph it with a tripod-mounted camera and an exposure up to a few seconds.
Tomorrow morning the moon and Jupiter appear close together. This is a “don’t miss” event. Set an alarm as a reminder to get outside to see it.
Saturn is over 30° above the south-southeast horizon. Not as bright as Jupiter, the Ringed Wonder is among the brightest stars in the sky. Without some optical assistance, the planets look like stars.
Through a telescope, Saturn’s rings are easily visible as well of some of its larger, brighter moons.
Saturn is moving eastward slowly in front of Aquarius, although the constellation’s stars are dim. The star Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish, nearby and to the lower right of Saturn. Deneb Kaitos, the tail of the sea monster, is near the horizon in the east-southeast.
Thirty minutes before daybreak, Mercury is bright, but slightly over 4° above the east-northeast horizon. Spotting it is further complicated by the level of morning twilight. A binocular is needed to locate it. In three mornings, the crescent moon appears with Mercury in the same binocular field of view.
Brilliant Venus gleams from the western sky during evening twilight. The planet brightens slightly each evening. While Venus is brighter than all other stars in the night sky, it varies in brightness and the difference is easy to spot during observations across a few months.
Venus steps eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars, the seemingly empty region between Gemini and Leo. It continues to close the gap to Mars, 5.6° to the Evening Star’s upper left.
Through a binocular, Venus’ brilliance is incredible. The view seems to overwhelm the distant stars. The planet passes to the upper right of the Beehive star cluster this evening. While the accompanying chart only shows Venus with the Beehive, Mars joins them if the binocular is moved slightly.
Venus does not catch Mars in this eastward planet derby. On June 30th, Venus to moves within 3.6° of Mars and then Earth’s Twin planet retreats. This event is not an official conjunction, but it is known as a quasi-conjunction, when the closest distance is within 5.0°. The next quasi-conjunction is Venus- Regulus on July 16th. The gap is 3.5°.
In his book Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon, and Planets, Jean Meuss lists twenty-three quasi conjunctions of two planets from 2011 through 2040. Nineteen of them have Mercury as one of the members of the close grouping. The next planet quasi-conjunction, Mercury and Mars, occurs on August 13th. This is a challenging view, occurring in bright twilight when the two planets are 4.7° apart. The next one occurs with Mercury and Saturn on April 10, 2025. This occurs during bright morning twilight. Venus is in the region and the grouping of three fits into the same binocular field of view.
Continue to watch Venus close on Mars each evening and Jupiter and the moon’s grouping tomorrow morning.