July 14, 2023: A thin lunar crescent is in the eastern sky before sunrise. Mercury begins to join Venus and Mars in the evening planet dance.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:28 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:25 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:
A thin crescent moon, 10% illuminated, is about 20° up in the east-northeast, over 9° to the upper left of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star, and 14.0° to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster.
Look for earthshine on the moon’s night portion. This effect is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds and land. That light gently lights up the lunar night.
Bright Jupiter, nearly 40° up in the east, is to the upper right of the lunar crescent. The planet is slowly moving eastward in front of Aries.
At 5:52 a.m. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a long-lived storm in the Jovian atmosphere, is at the center of the planet. This is after sunrise in Chicago. At an hour before sunrise, the Red Spot is peeking around the edge of the planet through a telescope.
Saturn, considerably dimmer than bright Jupiter, is about 40° up in the south, west of the south cardinal direction. The planet is retrograding in front of Aquarius distant stars. Look for Skat, meaning “the leg,” 7.0° to Saturn’s lower left, and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart), 5.4° to the upper left. During the next few months, notice the Ringed Wonder’s place compared to them.
Fomalhaut, the mouth of the southern fish, is about halfway from the planet to the southern horizon and Deneb Algedi, in Capricornus, to Saturn’s lower right.
The evening view turns toward the planet shuffle earlier during twilight than were described in recent articles. Brilliant Venus shines from the western sky as night falls. It is in its interval of greatest brightness through the 18th.
The following description is for forty-five minutes after sundown.
Venus, less than 10° above the western horizon, is approaching Regulus, but this does not result in a conjunction, when Venus and Regulus would share the same celestial longitude. Their conjunction does not occur until October when they appear in the morning sky. Venus closes to 3.5° in two nights in a near or quasi-conjunction. The Evening Star is moving westward and southward, appearing to reverse its direction on the 22nd to begin retrograde motion.
Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, is 3.5° to Venus’ upper left. With precision used in these articles, the separation is about the same for the next few evenings, but when small fractions of a degree are included, the Venus-Regulus gap has a tiny amount to close.
Dim Mars is marching away from Regulus and Venus. It is 2.7° to the upper left of Regulus. At this level of twilight, a binocular is needed to see the trio. They fit into the same field of view for the next few evenings.
Mercury is rapidly joining Venus and Mars. It sets nearly an hour after sundown. At the time of this description, the speedy planet is nearly 2° above the west-northwest horizon. While bright, a binocular is needed to see it from a vantage point with a clear view of that section of the horizon.
Each night at this time interval, Mercury is higher in the sky, while Venus, Regulus, and Mars are lower. On the 19th and 20th, the crescent moon joins the scene.
Look for the changing positions of the evening planets each night.
- 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.