2023, July 30: Venus Departs, Handled Moon


July 30, 2023: Venus is leaving the evening sky, setting earlier each night.  The moon is in front of the Teapot’s handle during the evening hours.

April 25, 2018: Venus in west-northwest


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:43 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:11 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 30: Bright Jupiter is in the east-southeast before daybreak. Use a binocular to view the Pleiades and Hyades.

Bright Jupiter stands above the east-southeast horizon during morning twilight.  An hour before daybreak, find it over halfway up in the sky.

The Jovian Giant is moving eastward in front of Aries, 12.5° below Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star, and 11.4° above Menkar in Cetus.

Look at Jupiter with a binocular.  The four largest moons are to the east of the planet this morning and far enough away that the binocular should be able to distinguish them from the planet.  In order from the planet and to the east they are, Ganymede, Io, Europa, and Callisto.

Through a telescope, the planet’s clouds are easily visible this morning.

Point the binocular at the Pleiades star cluster, to Jupiter’s lower left.  They may have caught your eye already without the optical assist. Count the stars in the cluster.

Bright Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star, is over 13° to the lower left of the Pleiades.  With the Hyades star cluster, the star makes a sideways “V” shape that represents the Bull’s head.

Chart Caption -2023, July 30: Saturn is in the south-southwest near Skat and Lamba Aquarii (λ Aqr).

Saturn, considerably dimmer than Jupiter, is about 30° up in the south-southwest.  It is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 7.3° to the upper right of Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, and 6.2° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).  The Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° to the upper right of Fomalhaut, the thirteenth brightest star seen from mid-northern latitudes.

Through a binocular, Saturn’s rings might be visible as tiny extensions of the planet.  Through a small telescope, the rings are visible along with its large moon Titan.  The distance from ring tip to ring tip appears to be about the same as Jupiter’s apparent diameter.

Evening Sky

Two weeks before inferior conjunction, brilliant Venus is departing the evening sky.  At sunset, it is less than 5° above the western horizon.  It sets about 25 minutes after the sun disappears below the horizon.

If you can find Venus during the daytime, look through a telescope to see a razor thin crescent, 6% illuminated.  (Yes, in a clear sky, Venus can be seen during the daytime, but do not point the telescope at the sun.)

Mercury, growing dimmer each evening and setting 67 minutes after the sun, is nearly 8° to the upper left of Venus.  At 45 minutes after nightfall, it is less than 4° above the horizon.

Summer evening appearances of Mercury for northern hemisphere sky watchers are unfavorable.  While the planet is over 27° from the sun on August 9th, the plane of the solar system makes an unfavorable angle with the horizon, placing the planet low in the sky during the early evening.

However, for our southern hemisphere readers, the planet is putting on quite a show and Mars is easier to see. The plane of the ecliptic places the planet higher in the sky, setting nearly two hours after nightfall.  Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Regulus are easily visible during the early evening.

After its greatest elongation, Mercury passes between Earth and the sun on September 6th, chasing Venus into the morning sky.  By the time Mercury moves to the west side of the sun, Venus is well-up in the eastern sky before sunrise.  At their closest approach on September 19th, the Morning Star stands over 20° to the upper right of the speedy planet.

From Chicago this evening an hour after the sun sets, Mars is less than 6° above the horizon.  The planet is departing the sky after its two-year run as it trekked eastward through Taurus at its opposition and then into the evening sky now in front of Leo. 

Chart Caption – 2023, July 30: The moon is in the handle of the Teapot through a binocular.

The bright moon, 96% illuminated, is low in the south-southeast during the early evening.  As the sky darkens, use a binocular to see it in the handle of the Teapot, part of Sagittarius.  Tonight, the moon eclipses or occults the star Tau Sagittarii (τ Sgr on the chart) for sky watchers in South America. From Chicago at 11:30 p.m. CDT, the moon passes 0.7° below the star.

Through the binocular notice the globular star cluster Messier 54 (M 54 on the chart).  The cluster has thousands of stars.  Tonight, though, is not the night for a good look.  With this moonlight it, it appears as a fuzzy star.  Return in a week or so with the binocular to get a better view with less interference from the moon’s illumination.

The moon reaches its Full (Sturgeon) moon phase on August 1st at 7:32 p.m. CDT.

Chart Caption – 2023, July 30: Saturn is in the southeast three hours after sundown.

Saturn rises earlier each evening.  Tonight, it appears above the east-southeast horizon at seventy-five minutes after nightfall. By three hours after the sun sets, it is nearly 20° up in the southeast.

By tomorrow morning during twilight, it is above the south-southwest horizon.



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