2023, July 15: Gored Moon, Evening Planet Jam


July 15, 2023: The crescent moon appears between the Bull’s horns during morning twilight.  Venus, Mars, and Mercury are in the western sky after nightfall.

Photo Caption – 2022, March 28: A close bunching of Venus, Saturn, Mars, and the crescent moon.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:29 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:24 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 15: The moon is between the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri, before sunrise.

A thin crescent moon, 5% illuminated, is over 10° above the east-northeast horizon at one hour before daybreak.  It appears between Taurus’ horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri, a precarious place.

Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation, is nearly 20° to the upper right of the lunar crescent.  The star along with the Hyades star cluster make a sideways letter “V” to form the head.  The Pleiades star cluster, higher in the sky, rides on the Bull’s back.  The constellation appears to be backing into the sky.  The pattern’s dimmer stars can be found easier with a binocular.

2020, July 17: The moon appears 3.3° to the left of Venus. Aldebaran is 3.2° to the upper right of Venus.

Look for earthshine on the night portion of the moon from sunlight reflected from Earth’s features. Tomorrow morning, the moon is very close to the horizon. It passes the New moon phase at 1:32 p.m. CDT on the 17th.

The star Capella is nearly 30° above the northeast horizon and to the upper left of the moon.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 15: Jupiter is the east-southeast before daybreak.

Bright Jupiter is nearly 40° up in the east-southeast.  It is the brightest starlike body in the sky this morning.  The Jovian Giant is moving slowly eastward in front of Aries.  The planet rises nearly five and one-half hours before the sun.

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is in the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 2:43 a.m. CDT for sky watchers with telescopes.  The planet is fairly low in the sky from Chicago, but in clearer air for those farther eastward.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 15: Saturn is in the south during morning twilight.

Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than most of the stars this morning, is in the south, nearly 40° above the horizon.  It is retrograding – appearing to move westward compared to the distant stars – in front of Aquarius.  It is 7.0° to the upper right of Skat – meaning “the leg” – and 5.5° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).  With a binocular, watch Saturn move away from these stars.

The star Fomalhaut is about halfway from the horizon to Saturn.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 15: Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Regulus are in the western sky during evening twilight.

Three planets and Leo’s brightest star are visible in the western sky in an apparent celestial traffic jam after sundown.  Brilliant Venus, in its interval of greatest brightness, is “that bright star” shining through evening twilight.  The Evening Star is quickly overtaking our planet, passing between Earth and the sun on August 13th.  It is setting three to four minutes earlier each evening. Tonight, it sets ninety minutes after the sun.

At forty-five minutes after nightfall, Venus, less than 10° above the horizon, is easily visible without a binocular, but one is needed to see the other celestial players.  Venus is approaching Regulus, 3.5° to the planet’s upper left.  Tomorrow, Venus has a near or quasi-conjunction with the star, slightly closer than tonight’s gap.

Mars, 3.3° to the upper left of Regulus, is marching away from the star and Venus.  Venus and Mars had a quasi-conjunction six nights ago and Mars passes closely to Regulus the next evening.

Chart Caption -2023, July 15: Venus, Mars, and Regulus in the same binocular field of view.

The trio still fits into the same binocular field for one or two more evenings, depending on the binocular’s optical characteristics.

Mercury is low in the west-northwest, about 2° above the horizon.  It is bright, but at this altitude, a binocular is needed to see it.  On the 19th and 20th, the crescent moon joins the scene.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 15: Saturn is in the east-southeast during the evening hours.

Saturn rises in the east-southeast about two hours after sunset.  An hour later it is nearly 10° above the horizon. Continue to watch the planet traffic jam in the western sky after sundown.



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