2023, June 27: Planet Parade, Moon-Spica Conjunction


June 27, 2023: Bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – and the moon parade across the sky during the nighttime hours.  The gibbous moon appears near Spica after sundown.

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


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:18 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 fifth evening of eight nights when the latest sunset occurs. Sunrise begins to inch toward later times, losing three minutes during the next week.

Summaries of Current Sky Events


Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 27: Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunrise.

The two bright giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are visible before sunrise.  Bright Jupiter is nearly 25° above the eastern horizon at an hour before sunrise.  The Jovian Giant is slowly moving eastward in front of Aries’ dim stars, 11.1° to the lower right of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.

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 in front of dim Aquarius that is washed out by the blush of morning twilight.

The star Fomalhaut, the mouth of the southern fish, is about halfway from the horizon to Saturn.

Notice other stars in the same region as the two giants.  Deneb Kaitos – the tail of the sea monster – is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – as Fomalhaut in the southeast.  Menkar – another star in Cetus – meaning “the nostril” – is below Jupiter, about 10° above the horizon. 

Jupiter and Saturn are part of a planet parade that begins when Saturn rises over five hours, thirty minutes before daybreak.  Jupiter follows over two hours later.

Mercury shuttles into bright sunlight.  It rises only twenty-three minutes before the sun and is impossible to see with conventional means.  Mercury reaches superior conjunction with the sun on July 1st.

Uranus, Neptune and the ninth classic planet Pluto are in the sky as well, but all are too dim to see without optical assistance.  Uranus is to the east of Jupiter, while Neptune is east of Saturn. Pluto is in the south-southwest, but a very dark sky is needed, as well as a large aperture telescope, to attempt to spot the last classic planet.

The western section of the planet parade then fades into bright daylight.  During the day, Venus, Mars, and the moon rise, although the lunar orb is easy to locate in a clear sky during the mid to late afternoon.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 27: Venus and Mars approach Regulus in the western sky after nightfall.

After sundown, the eastern part of the parade is visible with Venus, Mars, and the gibbous moon.  Brilliant Venus is that bright star in the west during evening twilight.  The planet is appearing lower each evening and setting earlier, now less than two hours, thirty minutes after nightfall.

Venus seemingly sparkles in the night sky as it is nearing its interval of greatest brightness. This occurs from June 29th through July 17th.

Venus is stepping eastward toward the star Regulus, 11.3° to the upper left and dimmer Mars 3.7° in the same direction.  Venus was rapidly overtaking Mars, but the pace slowed considerably.  Venus does not reach Mars in the sky, closing the gap to 3.5° in three nights in a near or quasi-conjunction.  Such events are named when a conjunction does not occur but the two bodies are within 5.0°.  Venus has a similar event with Regulus on July 16th.  Venus does not pass Regulus until they appear in the morning sky during October.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 27: The gibbous moon is near Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.

The gibbous moon, 68% illuminated, is over 30° above the south-southwest horizon, 3.0° to the upper left of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, meaning “the ear of corn.”

The lunar orb sets after midnight when tomorrow’s edition of the planet parade is underway with Saturn low in the east-southeast.



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