2023, July 26: Orion’s Appearance, Venus-Mercury Conjunction


July 26, 2023: Orion, winter’s flagship constellation, first appears in the east before sunrise during late July.  Mercury passes Venus during bright evening twilight.

2020, September 5: Morning Star Venus appears during twilight with Sirius, Procyon, Orion, and Gemini.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:39 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:15 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.

2020, August: Sirius is visible, without a binocular, in the east-southeast, 46 minutes before sunrise.

Sky watchers at latitude 20° north should be spotting Sirius low in the east-southeast at about forty minutes before sunrise for the first time after its disappearance into bright sunlight during the spring.  The heliacal rising of this star initiated the agricultural calendar for residents of the Nile River valley in Egypt.  At latitude 25° north the first appearance is predicted in two days.

The first appearance is dependent on weather.  Periods of morning clouds or rainy days can delay spotting the star.  An exceptionally clear sky and sighting from an elevated structure or hillside can accelerate spotting the Sirius.

Summaries of Current Sky Events

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: Orion makes its first appearance during late July each year.

Begin looking for Orion reappearing in the morning sky low in the east at one hour before sunrise.  Betelgeuse, the seventh brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes, is over 6° above the eastern horizon at this hour.  Rigel, two steps higher on the brightness ranking list, is only 4° up, to the lower right of Betelgeuse.

Orion’s Belt Stars, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, are in a vertical line between the two bright stars.  This morning, use a binocular and find an unobstructed eastern horizon to see them.  What is the first day you see them without the optical assist?

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: Jupiter is in the east-southeast before sunrise.

Bright Jupiter is higher to Orion’s upper right, over halfway up in the east-southeast. From our place in the solar system, we see Jupiter moving eastward against Aries’ stars, 12.2° below Hamal, the pattern’s brightest star. The planet is about midway between Hamal and Menkar, Cetus’ nostril.

Look for the Pleiades star cluster, less than 18° to the lower left of Jupiter.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: Saturn is in the south-southwest during morning twilight.

Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is over one-third of the way up in the south-southwest.  It is retrograding in front of Aquarius.  Use a binocular to locate it on the celestial vault compared to Skat, 7.2° to the planet’s lower left, and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart), 6.0° to the upper left.

Saturn appears to be moving westward compared to the starfield, opposite its usual eastward motion.  This illusion, known as retrograde motion, is from Earth overtaking and passing between Saturn and the sun. Opposition, when Earth is between them, occurs August 27th.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: During bright twilight, Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Regulus are in the western sky.

The evening planet shuffle is diving into bright twilight in the western sky. Venus can be found above the horizon during bright twilight. By thirty minutes after nightfall the planet is less than 3° up in the west.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: Through a binocular Venus and Mercury are visible.

Mercury, Mars, and the star Regulus are immersed in bright twilight and a binocular is needed to see them. This evening Mercury passes 5.1° to Venus’ upper right and fits into the same field of view with the Evening Star.  Regulus is in the region and likely washed out by the bright afterglow of sunset, even through the binocular.

Mars is marching eastward, over 13° to the upper left of Venus.  By an hour after sunset, the Red Planet is over 5° up in the west and visible through a binocular.  It is nearing its last call for this nearly two-year interval that carried it from the predawn sky, to a notable tour through Taurus at its opposition, and into the western evening sky.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: The moon is near Zubenelgenubi after nightfall.

Farther eastward, the bright gibbous moon, 62% illuminated, is nearly 25° above the south-southwest horizon, 3.6° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw.  The star is part of today’s Libra, but it retains its traditional name and reference. 

Scorpius is to the east of the moon, 22.4° to the upper right of Antares, the constellation’s brightest star.

With bright moonlight this evening, use a binocular to locate the dimmer stars, including Graffias, also known as Beta Scorpii, and Dschubba, Delta Scorpii.  On the 28th, from Australia, the lunar orb occults or eclipses Dschubba.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 26: Saturn is in the east-southeast during the evening.

Saturn rises less than 90 minutes after sundown.  Three hours after sunset, find it over 15° above the east-southeast horizon.



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