2023, July 8:  Moon Visits Neptune, Evening Planet Gathering


July 8, 2023: The gibbous moon appears near Neptune through a binocular during early morning hours.  Venus and Mars gather with Regulus after sundown.

Photo Caption – Venus, Mars, Regulus, September 28, 2017


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:24 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:28 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:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 8: Jupiter, Saturn and the gibbous moon are visible before daybreak.

The bright gibbous moon, 69% illuminated, is over 40° above the south-southeast horizon during morning twilight.  It is nearly 18° to the upper left of Saturn.  The lunar orb appears to be hopping between Saturn and Jupiter, over 30° up in the east and over 45° to the moon’s lower left.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 8: Neptune is visible with the gibbous moon through a binocular.

Neptune is in the same binocular field as the gibbous moon this morning.   The separation is 4.4° with the distant planet to the moon’s upper left.  Place the moon toward the lower right of the binocular field.  Neptune is to the upper left.  It makes a triangle with the distant stars 20 Piscium (20 Psc on the chart) and 24 Piscium (24 Psc).  Through the binocular, the planet still appears as a star, with no globe.  A telescope reveals the planet’s globe, although it looks tiny.

Look for Neptune when the sky is darker.  Together, the growing twilight and the moonlight wash over the fainter stars and planet, eventually making them invisible as sunrise approaches.

In four mornings, the crescent moon appears in the same binocular field with Uranus.

Saturn, nearly 40° up in the south, is at the south cardinal direction this morning.  It is retrograding – the illusion of moving westward compared to the distant stars – in front of dim Aquarius. The Ringed Wonder is above the star Fomalhaut, distinctly dimmer than the planet, that is about halfway to the horizon.

Bright Jupiter is over 30° above the eastern horizon.  It is slowly moving eastward against Aries, 11.4° to the lower right of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.

Cetus, the Sea Monster, is below Jupiter.  Menkar, meaning “the nostril” is about halfway from the horizon to Jupiter, while the tail, Deneb Kaitos, is in the south-southeast – to the left of Fomalhaut and lower left of the moon.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 8: Venus, Mars, and Regulus are near the western horizon during the early evening.

Mercury is speeding into fainter evening twilight.  At sunset, the planet is over 6° up in the west-northwest.  It is bright, but lost in the glare of bright evening twilight, setting forty minutes after sundown. It gains four to five minutes of setting time compared to sunset for the next several nights.

Brilliant Venus, in its interval of greatest brightness, gleams from the western sky as night falls.  It starts the evening lower in the sky than its place a few weeks ago. Now setting less than two hours after sundown, the Evening Star loses three to four minutes of setting time each night.

An hour after sundown, Venus is less than 10° above the western horizon.  A hilltop or elevated structure provides a view across any terrestrial obstructions.

The planet’s evening appearance is stalling as it approaches our world.  It closed in on Mars about a week ago, but the Red Planet moved away in the sky.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 8: The Venus, Mars, Regulus gathering as viewed through a binocular.

Much dimmer Mars is 4.4° to the upper left of Venus and 1.2° to the right of the star Regulus.  Mars passes Regulus in two evenings.  Tomorrow, the triplet gathers in the smallest bunch of this evening appearance of the three bodies. Use a binocular to see the three in the same field of view.

Regulus, meaning “the prince,” is the brightest star in Leo, a westward-facing lion we see in silhouette.  The constellation is tilted toward the western horizon.  The head is made by a backwards question mark or sickle, above it are the haunches and tail (Denebola).



Leave a ReplyCancel reply