2023, August 4: Bright Jupiter, Neptune-Moon Conjunction


August 4, 2023: Bright Jupiter is visible in the southeast during morning twilight.  As midnight approaches Neptune and the moon fit into the same binocular field.

Photo Caption – 2020, March 7: Venus is 2.3° to the right of Uranus.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:47 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:06 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times.

Summaries of Current Sky Events

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, August 4: Saturn and the moon are in the southwestern sky during morning twilight.

One hour before daybreak, the bright gibbous moon, 90% illuminated, lights up the predawn sky and terrestrial landscape from the south-southwest.  It is less than halfway up in the sky.  The lunar orb is 13.3° to the upper left of Saturn and over 20° to the upper right of Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish.

Neptune is 9.0° to the upper left of the moon and beyond a binocular’s field of view from the moon.  Both fit into the same field tonight.

Chart Caption – Saturn’s retrograde – apparent westward movement compared to the distant stars – is depicted during four and one-half months.

Saturn is retrograding in front of Aquarius.  The illusion is from Earth passing between the planet and the sun.  Earth is between them on the 27th.  This event is known as opposition because they appear in opposite directions in the sky. 

When the moon is at its Full phase, it is at opposition, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. Opposition for the moon occurs every 29.5 days.  Saturn’s opposition occurs in intervals of about 378 days.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 4: Jupiter is in the southeastern sky before daybreak.

This morning, bright Jupiter stands over halfway up in the southeast, 12.7° to the lower left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and 11.3° to the upper left of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril. The Jovian Giant is slowly moving eastward in front of Aries. Look for the Pleiades star cluster, 17.1° to the left of the planet.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, August 4: Three hours after sundown, Saturn and the moon are in the southeastern sky.

The three evening planets are immersed in bright twilight.  At sunset, brilliant Venus sets a few minutes after the sun.  It is overtaking our world, passing between Earth and the sun on the 13th and moving quickly into the morning sky. By month’s end, it rises nearly two hours before the sun.

Mercury, three evenings before its greatest elongation, dims each evening. At thirty minutes after sundown, it is less than 3° above the horizon, a challenging view.

Mars, after its two-year trek through the starry background, is on a slow fade toward its solar conjunction on November 12th.  The planet is quite dim and even an hour after sundown, it is a challenging observation.  When Mars reappears in the morning sky, Venus passes it February 22, 2024.

As Saturn approaches its opposition, it rises about an hour after sundown.  At opposition, it rises at sunset.  Each night, it rises about four minutes earlier.  Three hours after nightfall this evening, the Ringed Wonder is about 20° up in the southeast, over 25° to the upper right of the moon that is 83% illuminated.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 4: Through a binocular Neptune and the gibbous moon fit into the same field of view.

As the midnight hour approaches in Chicago, Neptune and the moon fit into the same binocular field of view.  This view is challenging because the moon and planet are low in the sky, and the bright moonlight that is amplified through the binocular hampers the scene. Four stars that assist with the planet’s identification are in the binocular field with Neptune and the moon. 

On the accompanying chart, they are identified by their catalog numbers.  No named stars are in the field. Once they are located, move the binocular slightly to move the moon out of the field.  Neptune’s color is aquamarine and distinctly dimmer than the stars that appear nearby. Through the binocular, the planet appears as a dim star.

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