2023, July 22:  Venus Retrogrades, Evening Planet Brigade


July 22, 2023: Venus begins to retrograde in the sky as it overtakes our planet. It appears with Mercury, Mars, Moon, and Regulus after sundown.  Jupiter and Saturn are visible before sunup.

Photo Caption – The crescent moon appears near Venus as the brilliant planet approaches the star Elnath.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:35 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:19 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 22: Jupiter is in the east-southeast during morning twilight. View the planet, Pleiades, and Hyades with a binocular.

An hour before daybreak, bright Jupiter is about halfway up in the sky in the east-southeast.  It is moving slowly eastward in front of Aries, 12.0° below Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star.

This morning with a binocular, look for Jupiter’s satellites, Io, Ganymede, and Callisto to the west of the planet.  Europa is very close to the planet and likely not visible through the binocular.

Photo Caption – 2022, August 19: Mars, the moon, and Pleiades,

With the binocular look at the Pleiades star cluster, appearing as a miniature dipper, 18.5° to the lower left of Jupiter.  Without the optical assist, six or seven stars are visible.  Through the binocular a few dozen stars are there.

Photo Caption – 2020, July 17: The crescent moon appears with Venus and near Aldebaran before sunrise.

Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, below the Pleiades and nearly 25° up in the east, make a sideways letter “V,” forming the head of Taurus.

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

Through a telescope, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere at 3:31 a.m. CDT.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 22: Saturn is in the west-southeast before daybreak.

During morning twilight, Saturn is in the south-southwest, 7.1° to the upper right of Skat, meaning “the leg,” and 5.8° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).

Saturn’s westward retrograde motion is easy to spot by looking each clear morning.  This illusion is from Earth overtaking and passing the more distant world.

Through a binocular, there’s not much to see with Saturn.  Tiny extensions, that are the rings, might be visible, depending on how steadily the binoculars are held. Through a telescope using a 100x eyepiece, the rings are easily visible as well as at least the large moon Titan.  With the rings, Saturn appears to be about the same size as Jupiter’s globe using the same telescopic eyepiece.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 3-24: Venus’ and Mars’ motions relative to the Regulus and the ecliptic are displayed. Planet, Regulus, and ecliptic plots by Starry Night Pro 7.

Venus eastward trek for this evening appearance ends tonight.  The planet begins to retrograde as it overtakes our planet, passing between Earth and the sun on August 13th and quickly moving into the morning sky.

Typically, retrograde motion refers to the outer planets, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and all the objects – comets, asteroids, dwarf planets, and the like – that revolve around the sun beyond Earth’s orbit.  When Earth overtakes the distant worlds, they appear to back up against the distant stars.

Venus and Mercury retrograde as well.  This occurs when the planets are overtaking Earth. The Evening Star is nearly thirty million miles from Earth tonight, about one hundred forty times the moon’s distance.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 22: Venus, Mercury, Mars, Moon, and Regulus are in the western sky during evening twilight.

In the sky, Venus is low in the western sky during evening twilight.  It sets three to four minutes earlier each evening.  As the sky darkens and through a binocular, Venus is 4.2° below the star Regulus, the brightest in Leo.

Chart Caption -2023, July 22: The location of Venus, Mars, and Mercury relative to Earth.

Venus has been the brilliant beacon for the planet shuffle occurring in the western sky after nightfall. Begin looking for the planet as the sky begins to darken.  It easily shines through the bright blush of early twilight.  The evening crescent moon, 23% illuminated, is less than one-third of the way up in the west-southwest about 30° to the upper left of Venus and the planet brigade.

Photo Caption – 2021, January 15: The thin waxing moon with earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s features gently illuminates the lunar night.

Look for earthshine on the night portion of the moon.  This gentle light is reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land.

Through a binocular, Mercury is 8.7° to the right of Venus.  The gap is too wide for them to fit in to the same binocular field of view.  Mars, dimmer than might be expected, is 7.6° to the upper left of Regulus, with a gap now too wide to fit into the same binocular field of view with the star.

Mars, marching eastward in Leo, is slowly disappearing into bright twilight.  As it slides into brighter light, even with a binocular, the planet’s light is overwhelmed by the sun’s glare.

By forty minutes after sundown, Venus is less than 5° above the western horizon and is slightly higher. Venus sets sixty-two minutes after the sun and Mercury sets five minutes later. Mars sets one hundred, ten minutes after nightfall.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 22: Three hours after sunset, Saturn is low in the east-southeastern sky.

About the time Mars sets, Saturn is appearing above the east-southeast horizon.  By three hours after sunset, the Ringed Wonder is about 15° above the horizon.

During the night, as Earth rotates, Saturn appears farther westward, crossing the south direction around two hours before daybreak.  During morning twilight, the planet is in the south-southwest.



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