2023, August 5: See Neptune through a Binocular


August 5, 2023: Neptune is visible through a binocular with the gibbous moon as a guide.  Jupiter, and Saturn are in the morning sky before daybreak.

Photo Caption – Venus, Mars, Spica and Zubenelgenubi, December 19, 2015.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:48 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:04 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times.

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid meteor shower on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009 in Vinton, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

The Perseid meteor shower peaks before twilight begins on the morning of the 13th.  Brighter meteors related to the shower can be seen during the next several mornings, but the bright moonlight overwhelms the dimmer shooting stars. By the peak morning the moon phase is a waning crescent, not interfering much with the event.

Summaries of Current Sky Events

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption: 2023, August 5: Neptune appears with the gibbous moon in the same binocular field during the overnight hours.

After midnight and before the beginning of morning twilight that occurs about two hours before sunrise, Neptune and the gibbous moon appear in the same binocular field.  The moon’s light somewhat overwhelms the view.  Once the moon and the starfield are located, move the binocular slightly so that the moon is outside the view.  Resembling a dim aquamarine star, find it compared to the brighter stars in the field.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 5: During morning twilight, Saturn and the moon are in the southwestern sky.

At an hour before daybreak, when the sky is too bright to see Neptune through a binocular, the moon is over halfway up in the south-southwestern sky.  It is nearly 30° to the upper left of Saturn and over 18° to the upper right of Deneb Kaitos, the Sea Monster’s tail. Saturn is retrograding – appearing to move westward compared to the background stars – in front of Aquarius.  The background stars are difficult to see in this level of moonlight.

At this hour, the moon is about midway from Saturn to Jupiter that is nearly 60° above the southeast horizon. 

Chart Caption – 2023, August 5: Bright Jupiter is in the eastern sky near Hamal, Menkar, and the Pleiades star cluster.

The Jovian Giant is moving eastward compared to Aries, 12.7° to the lower left of Hamal, meaning “the full-grown lamb,” and 11.4° to the upper left of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril.

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

At 5:07 a.m. CDT, over 40 minutes before sunrise in Chicago, Jupiter’s famous atmospheric feature, the Great Red Spot, is at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere when viewed through a telescope.  Sky Watchers farther westward see the planet in a darker sky.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, August 5: Two hours after sundown, Saturn is over 10° above the horizon.

The three evening planets – Venus, Mercury, and Mars – are hidden by bright twilight after nightfall.  Venus is moving toward its inferior conjunction – between Earth and the sun – on the 13th and then a morning appearance.

Mercury reaches its greatest elongation – farthest it appears from the sun – on the 9th. Fading in brightness and suffering from a poorly inclined solar system plane, it is a challenge to see from the northern hemisphere, although sky watchers from the southern hemisphere have better views and see the planet in the west-northwest after sunset.

Mars is wiped out by bright evening twilight.  While it sets about 90 minutes after the sun, its visibility is very limited, if not impossible.  It passes behind the sun in November and very slowly climbs into the morning sky during early 2024.

Saturn rises in the east-southeast less than an hour after sunset. An hour later, the Ringed Wonder is about 10° up in the east-southeast.  Moving toward that opposition event, the planet is visible during the overnight hours.  It is south about three hours before sunup tomorrow and in the southwest during morning twilight.

The gibbous moon, 73% illuminated rises in the east about three hours after the sun. 

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