June 17, 2023: The stars’ places before sunrise and after sundown are signals that the season is changing. Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise, while brilliant Venus and Mars are in the west after sundown.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:28 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:
During morning twilight about an hour before daybreak, bright Jupiter is nearly 20° up in the east. It is higher in the sky each morning and beginning to appear above the atmosphere’s severe blurring effects.
The Jovian Giant is moving slowly eastward in front of Aries. It is over 11° to the lower left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
Jupiter is the brightest star in the sky this morning. It is noticeably brighter than Capella, Auriga’s brightest star that is over 10° above the northeast horizon. The star is the fourth brightest seen from the mid-northern latitudes after Sirius, Arcturus, and Vega.
Depending on the clarity of the sky, the Pleiades star cluster might be visible to the unassisted eye. It is nearly 10° up in the east-northeast.
The reappearance of the Pleiades and Capella’s higher morning altitude are celestial markers that the solstice is near. They do not indicate the precise date, but indicate that astronomical summer is here.
Saturn is the second bright planet visible at this hour. Find it over 30° above the south-southeast horizon. Not dazzlingly bright like Jupiter, it is among the brightest stars this morning. It is above the star Fomalhaut, about halfway from the horizon to the Ringed Wonder.
Fomalhaut’s location before sunrise is another indication that the new season is about to begin.
Mercury is retreating into bright sunlight and is difficult to see. The planet rises fifty-four minutes before the sun and immersed in the light of approaching dawn. It is moving toward superior conjunction with the sun and unfavorable viewing prospects in the western evening sky.
The moon is approaching the New moon phase that occurs tomorrow at 5:38 a.m. CDT
As night falls, look into the eastern sky for the Summer Triangle, made by Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Each star belongs to its own constellation, but the triad is another indicator of the new season. Vega is the highest star, over two-thirds of the way up in the eastern sky. Altair is over 10° up in the east, while Deneb – the dimmest of the three – is over halfway up in the northeast.
The planets do not repeat the annual cycle of the stars that is from Earth’s revolution around the sun. This year, brilliant Venus is about 20° above the western horizon at an hour after sundown. The Evening Star brightens slightly every evening and its visual intensity is striking.
Venus appears to be overtaking Mars in the sky although in the solar system, the Red Planet is over three times farther away than Earth’s Twin planet. Venus is 5.3° to the lower right of Mars this evening and both easily fit into the same binocular field of view, although the better view has Venus and the Beehive star cluster in the same field of view.
Both planets seem to be moving toward Leo and its brightest star Regulus, nearly 20° to the upper left of Venus. The constellation is a westward-facing Lion that we visualize in silhouette.
Watch the western planet chase continue after sundown.