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