June 23, 2023: The latest sunset occurs today. Evening Star Venus approaches its brightest after sundown. It is a striking sight.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:16 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:30 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.
This evening and for the next eight nights, the latest sunset occurs.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Bright Jupiter is in the east before sunrise. Now clearing the neighborhood trees and buildings, the Jovian Giant is over 20° up at an hour before sunrise. It is moving slowly eastward in front of Aries, 11.1° to the lower right of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
For sky watchers with telescopes, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet at 5:27 a.m. Central Daylight Time. The feature resembles a long-lived storm, larger than Earth, that has been visible through telescopes for nearly 400 years. Possibly, the storm has been there longer than humans have been using telescopes to watch the stars.
Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is over 35° above the south-southeast horizon. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding – moving westward compared to the stars – in front of Aquarius’ dim stars. Notice the star Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish,” about halfway from the horizon to Saturn.
Mercury continues its retreat into bright sunlight and is not visible with conventional observations. The planet rises only thirty-eight minutes before the sun and it is lost in sunlight when it is higher in the sky.
Venus is nearing its interval of greatest brightness. If the planet has not been seen recently, casual sky watchers likely notice its incredible brightness. Find the planet in the west after night falls.
An hour after sunset, the Evening Star is less than 20° up in the west. The planet sets two hours, thirty-six minutes after sundown, losing two to three minutes of setting time compared to sunset each night.
The planet is stepping eastward in front of Cancer’s dim stars, below the silhouette of Leo, the westward facing lion, now tipped toward the horizon. Venus is 4.1° to the lower right of dimmer Mars, only one-three hundredth Venus’ intensity.
Venus has been overtaking Mars, but the closing rate has diminished recently. The chase ends when the gap closes to 3.6° on the 30th. For this appearance of Venus, Mars marches away without a conjunction, only a near-conjunction or quasi-conjunction.
Mars marched into Leo a few evenings ago. This evening it is 10.6° to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star. The planet is slightly dimmer than the star.
Regulus is the fifteenth brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes. It is about 80 light years away and shines with the intensity of nearly 150 suns. The star appears very close to the plane of the solar system, so the planets and moon can seem to pass very closely to the star. Mars passes closely on July 10th. Venus has a quasi-conjunction with the star on July 16th. A Venus-Regulus conjunction occurs October 9th when the subjects are in the morning sky.
The crescent moon, 29% illuminated, is over 20° to the upper left of Venus and nearly 8° to the upper left of Regulus.
The waxing moon is gaining brightness each evening. Notice that it is beginning to cast shadows.
Each evening during the next week, watch Venus and Mars move eastward toward Regulus.