July 11, 2023: The crescent moon and Jupiter make a pretty conjunction before sunrise in the eastern sky. Venus and Mars continue their planet shuffle with Regulus.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:26 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:26 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
SUMMARY FOR VENUS AS AN EVENING STAR
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Step outside and look eastward at an hour before sunrise. The waning crescent moon, 36% illuminated, is 5.4° to the upper right of Jupiter. This is a lovely pair in the blush of morning twilight.
Use a binocular to spot some earthshine on the moon’s night portion. It is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s features to gently light up the lunar night. This effect grows each morning. As the moon’s phase grows thinner each morning, Earth’s phase as seen from the moon grows toward the Full phase, reflecting more light to brighten the moon’s nighttime. Earthshine can be captured with a tripod mounted camera with exposures up to a few seconds.
With the binocular, look for the Pleiades star cluster, 20.0° to Jupiter’s lower left and nearly 30° up in the east. The cluster resembles a miniature dipper and rides on Taurus’ back.
Aldebaran, the Bull’s brightest star, is nearly 15° above the horizon and below the Pleiades. Through the binocular, notice that Aldebaran appears to be part of a sideways “V” made by the Hyades. Aldebaran is not part of this cluster, but seems to complete the recognizable shape.
Saturn – considerably dimmer than Jupiter, but among the brightest stars this morning – is nearly 40° up in the south at this hour. The planet is now slightly west of the south cardinal direction. It is retrograding – appearing to move westward compared to the stars – in front of dim Aquarius, nearly 13° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, in Capricornus.
The star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – is below Saturn, about halfway to the horizon.
Tomorrow morning, the lunar crescent is between Jupiter and the Pleiades, followed by a close grouping of the moon and the star cluster the next morning.
After sundown, Mars marches away from Venus and Regulus after the trio’s close grouping two nights ago. To locate Mars and Regulus, first find brilliant Venus. It is in its interval of greatest brightness and appears as “that bright star” in the west after sundown.
The Evening Star is visible in the western sky as night falls. It sets three to four minutes earlier each evening and by one hour after sundown, it is less than 10° above the horizon. At this time Regulus and Mars are visible. A binocular helps to locate Regulus, 4.1° to the upper left of Venus and Mars, 1.0° to the upper left of the star. Can you see them to the upper left of Venus without the optical assist?
Mercury is joining this western planet traffic jam. This evening it sets fifty minutes after sunset.
Watch the planet shuffle in the western sky after sundown.
- 2023, October 21: Three Bright Planets, First Quarter MoonOctober 21, 2023: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are easy to locate during nighttime hours. The First Quarter moon phase occurs this evening.
- 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.