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.
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
SUMMARY FOR VENUS AS AN EVENING STAR
Here is today’s planet forecast:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.