2023, June 28: Aldebaran Returns, Venus Approaches Mars


June 28, 2023: Aldebaran returns to the morning sky with its heliacal rising. Venus nudges closer to Mars after sundown.   

Photo Caption – 2020, July 17: The crescent moon appears with Venus and near Aldebaran before sunrise.


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 sixth 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 28: One hour before daybreak, Aldebaran is making its first morning appearance. Jupiter is in the east.

Taurus’ brightest star, Aldebaran, is making its first morning appearance before sunrise.  To locate it first find bright Jupiter, about 25° above the east horizon.  The Jovian Giant is slowly moving eastward in front of Aries, 11.1° to the lower right of its brightest star Hamal.

Capella, the fourth brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes, is nearly 20° above the northeast horizon. The Pleiades star cluster, less than 20° up in the east-northeast, is below an imaginary line from Capella to Jupiter. Aldebaran is below the Pleiades, near the horizon.

Like all first appearances known as heliacal risings, the sky watcher’s view of the horizon and the weather play important factors.  First, find a clear horizon looking toward the east-northeast.  A view from a hilltop or elevated structure helps with Aldebaran’s sighting.  Secondly, clouds or haze near the horizon affect the first date the star is visible.  A binocular helps with the sighting.  First find it with a binocular than look for it without the assist.  What is the first date you see Aldebaran without a binocular’s boost?

Aldebaran, Capella, and the Pleiades star cluster lead the bright stars that are prominently placed in the south during winter’s evenings.  The congregation is in full view during predawn hours in October.  During the next several weeks, the bright stars make their heliacal risings, including Castor, Pollux, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Procyon, and Sirius.

While looking for Aldebaran, locate Menkar, in Cetus, below Jupiter and Mirfak, in Perseus, to Capella’s upper right.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 28: Saturn is in the south-southeast, above Fomalhaut, before sunrise.

At this hour, Saturn is nearly 40° above the south-southeast horizon.  The Ringed Wonder is retrograding – appearing to move westward compared to the sideral background – in front of dim Aquarius.  Saturn is dimmer than Capella.

The star Fomalhaut – meaning the “mouth of the southern fish” – is about halfway from the horizon to Saturn.

Mercury is not visible because it is bathed in bright sunlight.  Still on the morning side of the sun, the speedy planet rises only eighteen minutes before daybreak.  It is at its solar superior conjunction on July 1st, then moving into the evening sky.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, June 28: The moon is near the Scorpion’s claws after sundown.

After nightfall, the bright gibbous moon, 77% illuminated, is about one-third of the way up in the southern sky, 6.0° to the right of Zubenelgenubi – meaning “the scorpion’s southern claw” – and over 15° to the lower left of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.

Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali – “the northern claw” – are part of today’s Libra, while Graffias – meaning “the crab” – and Dschubba – “the forehead” – dot part of Scorpius.

The moon is at its Full (Buck) moon phase at 6:39 a.m. CDT on July 3rd.

Chart Caption – 2023, June 28: Venus, Mars, and Regulus are in the west after nightfall.

Venus continues to blaze in the western sky after sundown.  It is “that bright star” in the west as night falls.  By an hour after sundown, the Evening Star is less than 15° above the horizon.  It sets earlier each night, now two hours, twenty-three minutes after the sun.

Venus is slowing its eastward motion.  This evening it is 3.6° to the lower right of dimmer Mars and 10.6° to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star, meaning “the prince.”  Venus is closest to Mars in two evenings in a near or quasi-conjunction.  Mars marches away, passing Regulus on July 10th.  Venus does not pass Regulus until October, when they appear together in the morning sky.

Venus is nearing its interval of greatest brightness, beginning tomorrow evening and lasting through July 17th.  The planet is always the brightest regular starlike body in the night sky, but it varies in brightness and the change is noticeable during several weeks.

Continue to watch the planets play in the western sky as the Venus-Mars quasi-conjunction is two nights away and then Mars heads toward Regulus.



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