2023, July 14: Thin Morning Crescent, Evening Planets Dance


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.

Photo Caption – 2022, June 18: Four of the five morning planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.


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

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 14: Jupiter and the crescent moon are in the eastern sky before daybreak.

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.

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 14: Saturn is in the southern sky during morning twilight.

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.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 14: Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Regulus are in the western sky during evening twilight.

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 14: Venus, Mars, and Regulus appear in the same binocular field of view.

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.



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