June 29, 2023: Venus slows as it approaches Mars after sunset. Farther eastward, the bright gibbous moon is with the Scorpion’s head.
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.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Bright Jupiter and Saturn are visible during morning twilight. The Jovian Giant is over 25° up in the east, one hour before sunrise. It appears in front of Aries and is gently moving eastward, 11.1° to the lower right of the constellation’s brightest star, Hamal.
Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is about 40° above the south-southeast horizon. It is in front of Aquarius dim stars, washed out by the blush of morning twilight. The Ringed Wonder appears to move westward against the stars. The illusion is known as retrograde motion, from Earth passing between the planet and the sun.
Mercury is still considered a morning planet, but it is hiding in bright sunlight, rising only thirteen minutes before the sun. It passes behind the central star on July 1st and charges toward an evening appearance.
Brilliant Venus is “that bright star” in the west after sundown. Nearing its interval of greatest brightness, the planet is striking during evening twilight. An hour after sundown, the Evening Star is less than 15° above the western horizon.
Venus appears to be slowing its eastern trek through the starfield. This evening it is 9.9° to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star, and 3.6° to the lower right of Mars.
Venus appeared to be overtaking the Red Planet throughout the spring. Now Venus is slowing so that it does not catch Mars in the sky. A near or quasi-conjunction occurs with Mars tomorrow evening. The separation is slightly closer than tonight’s distance.
Afterward, Mars marches away from Venus, passing closely to Regulus on July 10th. Venus continues to seem to slow, but it does not pass Regulus, reaching their closest separation six nights later. Venus eventually passes Regulus in the morning sky during October.
The starry night is muted by the gibbous moon, about 30° up in the south. The celestial background includes the Scorpion’s claws, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, and the head including Graffias and Dschubba. A binocular may be needed to see the background stars.
During the next few evenings watch the aftereffects of the Venus-Mars quasi conjunction.
- 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.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.