June 25, 2023: Bright Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise, while Uranus and Neptune hide in bright morning twilight. Brilliant Venus, Mars, and the nearly half-full moon are in the west after nightfall.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:17 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 is the third evening of eight nights when the latest sunset occurs.
A parade of four bright planets occurs each morning and evening. It is interrupted by the sun and daytime. Jupiter and Saturn rise before the sun. They set during the day while Venus and Mars rise. After sundown, Venus and Mars remain in the western sky.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, bright Jupiter is over 20° up in the east. It is moving eastward in front of Aries, 11.1° to the lower right of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible through a telescope in the center of the planet in its southern hemisphere at 6:06 a.m. CDT, nearly 50 minutes after sunrise in Chicago. The feature can be seen near the edge of the planet earlier in twilight for eastern regions of the Americas.
Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is over 60° to the upper right of the Jovian Giant and nearly 40° above the south-southeast horizon. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding – appearing to move westward compared to Aquarius’ dim stars – that are washed out by the blush of morning twilight and the perpetual glow of outdoor lighting.
Mercury continues its retreat into bright morning twilight, rising only thirty-four minutes before sunrise, far too late to be visible by conventional means.
Uranus is in the morning sky as well, over 13° to the lower left of Jupiter, about halfway to the Pleiades star cluster. A binocular and a star chart is needed to attempt to locate it. Morning twilight washes out the planet.
Neptune is west of the sun as well, over 20° to the lower left of Saturn. This observation is even more of a challenge because it is dimmer than Uranus and morning twilight brightens the sky.
The planet parade continues after sunset with Venus, Mars, and the moon appearing to the upper left of the sunset point.
The nearly half-full moon is over 30° above the southwest horizon as the sky darkens. The phase is at the First Quarter phase at 2:50 a.m. CDT tomorrow, after moonset in middle America.
This evening, the lunar orb is less than 10° to the lower right of Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis. A binocular may be needed to see the star through moonlight.
Venus is that bright star in the west after sundown. The planet continues to grow in brightness, but it sets earlier each night. Venus is overtaking our planet, passing between Earth and the sun on August 13th and then hopping into the morning sky. Tonight, the distance from Earth to Venus is less than 50 million miles.
Through a telescope, Venus shows a crescent phase, 36% illuminated. The planet is largely featureless as it is covered with clouds.
Mars, considerably dimmer than Venus, is marching eastward in Leo, 3.9° to the upper left of the Evening Star and 12.7° to the lower right of Regulus, the Lion’s brightest star.
Venus has been overtaking Mars in the sky during the winter and spring months, although Venus is moving farther from the Red Planet. This evening the separation in space is over 150 million miles, about three times Venus’ distance from Earth.
Venus eastward pace has slowed considerably and it does not pass Mars. Rather a near conjunction or quasi-conjunction occurs in five nights when the gap is only 3.6°. Mars marches away and passes Regulus. Venus’ eastward motion ends with a Regulus quasi-conjunction on July 15th.
Venus and Mars set over two hours, thirty minutes after nightfall, ending the appearance of the brightest planets on parade. The moon sets nearly two hours later.
Continue to watch the planetary dance and the planet parade that begins again in the morning before sunrise.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.