July 19, 2023: Venus, Mercury, Mars, crescent Moon, and the star Regulus are gathered in the western sky after nightfall.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:32 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:21 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:
Bright Jupiter is visible during morning twilight. Find it about 40° up in the east-southeast at one hour before sunrise.
The planet is moving eastward in front of Aries, 11.9° below Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is in the south-southwest, at a lower altitude – height above the horizon – than the Jovian Giant. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding, appearing to move west against Aquarius, 7.2° to the upper right of Skat, meaning “the leg,” and 5.6° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart). These stars are dim and a binocular is needed to see them, especially from urban and suburban settings. Check the relative place of Saturn compared to these stars every few mornings to see its westward direction.
Venus, Mercury, Mars, the crescent moon, and Regulus are in the west after sundown, but the dimmer bodies are hiding in the colorful splash of evening twilight. From Mercury to Mars, they span 19.5°. Use a binocular and find a clear view toward the western horizon. Finding these objects in the western sky is not an easy task, but begin looking about 35 minutes after sunset with a binocular, especially for Mercury, Mars, and Regulus.
Brilliant Venus is easy to locate through twilight’s blush soon after nightfall. By forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus is 5.0° up in the west. The crescent moon, 5% illuminated, is 9.2° to the upper right of the Evening Star and too far away for both to fit into the same field of view. Mercury, 3.0° above the west-northwest horizon and nearly 13° to the lower right of Venus, is 6.3° to the lower right of the crescent and in the same binocular field. Hold the binocular so that the moon is toward the upper left part of the view. Mercury appears to the lower right edge of the field.
The star Regulus is 3.7° above Venus and in the same binocular field of view. Venus was closest to the star three nights ago, but there was no conjunction. The planet is slowing to reverse its direction in three nights.
Mars is marching away from the scene, 5.7° to the upper left of Regulus. It passed the star on the 10th. The planet is dim and slowly slipping into bright evening twilight. It passes behind the sun on November 17th. Because Mars revolves around the sun at about half Earth’s rate, its absence from view takes an unexpected long period. After it disappears into brighter twilight is not visible again until 2024.
Venus, Mars, and Regulus are too far apart to fit into the same binocular field of view. Find either planet with the star.
Tomorrow evening, the moon is in the same binocular field with Mars.
Saturn rises about two hours after sunset. An hour later, it is low in the east-southeast.
- 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.