2023, July 9:  Venus, Mars Gather with Regulus


July 9, 2023: This evening, look for a rare close gathering of Venus, Mars, and Regulus in the western sky after sundown. The three are not this close again until 2053!

Photo Caption – 2023, July 9: Venus, Mars, Regulus make the most compact gathering until 2053.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:24 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:27 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 9: The slightly gibbous moon is midway from Jupiter to Saturn before sunrise.

The slightly gibbous moon, 58% illuminated, is over 40° above the southeast horizon at one hour before daybreak.  The morning half-moon (Last Quarter) occurs at 8:48 p.m. CDT when the moon is below the horizon in the Americas.  This morning the moon is midway between bright Jupiter in the east and Saturn in the south.

Jupiter is over 30° above the eastern horizon and 32° to the lower left of the lunar orb.  It is moving slowly eastward, 11.4° to the lower right of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star.

Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is nearly 40° above the southern horizon and over 30° to the lower right of the moon.  The Ringed Wonder is slowly retrograding, an illusion that the planet is moving westward compared to the starry background, in front of Aquarius.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 9: Venus and Mars gather with Regulus in the west after sundown.

This evening brilliant Venus, Mars, and Regulus make a small grouping that fits into a circle 4.7° in diameter and easily into a binocular’s field of view.

Venus is “that bright star” in the west after sundown.  Begin looking for Venus about 45 minutes after nightfall.  As the sky darkens further, Mars and Regulus, to the Evening Star’s upper left, become visible.  Regulus, Leo’s brightest star, is to the upper left of Venus and 1.2° to the left of Mars.

Venus is in its interval of greatest brightness.  Its brilliance is striking and noticeably brighter than it was six weeks ago.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 9: Through a binocular, Venus, Mars, and Regulus appear together.

This grouping is a rare event.  Mars passes Regulus nearly every two years.  Venus-Mars conjunctions range from a few months to nearly two years.  The next gathering occurs October 2, 2028 in the eastern sky before sunrise, spanning 12.8°. The next close gathering of the trio is July 9, 2053.  Other widely-spaced gatherings occur in the years leading up to the next close gathering.

Mercury and the moon, join this year’s gathering on the 19th and 20th.

Mercury is rapidly entering the evening sky.  At sunset, the bright planet is over 6° above the west-northwest horizon, but its appearance is washed over by the sun’s glare. It sets nearly 45 minutes after the sun.

Tomorrow the Red Planet passes Regulus in a close conjunction.  In a week, Venus does not pass Regulus, but closes to within 3.5°, a near or quasi-conjunction.



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