August 12, 2023: A thin crescent moon appears near the foot of Gemini’s Castor foot and a star cluster. This morning, Sirius makes its first appearance for sky watchers at Chicago’s latitude.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt Chicago, Illinois:
Sunrise, 5:56 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:55 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times.
Sirius makes its first appearance this morning at Chicago’s latitude based on Jean Meeus’ equations. The star is low in the east-southeast about forty minutes before sunrise. While today is the theoretical first appearance, the star may be hidden on the horizon by clouds, trees, or other terrestrial obstructions. A view across Lake Michigan, especially from a high-rise building, provides an ideal natural horizon. First attempt to locate Sirius with a binocular and find it without the optical help.
The Perseid meteor shower peaks before twilight begins tomorrow morning. The shower’s origin is the dust and debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The sun’s light vaporizes the comet’s ices, releasing dust particles that are widely distributed along the orbital path. Each year, Earth passes through the debris, the dust enters the atmosphere, and vaporizes around 50 miles above the ground.
The predicted maximum visible rate before sunrise on the morning of the 13th is ninety meteors per hour. What is seen depends on the sky darkness and how much of the sky is visible to any single meteor watcher. Urban and suburban sky watchers may see approximately ten meteors each hour, while those in the countryside might see twenty to thirty per hour.
The shower’s center or radiant is in Perseus. It rises high in the sky from Earth’s rotation after midnight when we view the meteor shower head-on.
To maximize the meteor count recruit four other friends for a Saturday night through Sunday morning meteor watch. One watcher looks overhead, where more meteors appear. The others look toward each cardinal direction, because the meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
SUMMARY FOR VENUS AS AN EVENING STAR
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, a thin crescent moon, 14% illuminated, is over 30° above the east-northeast horizon. It is near Castor’s foot, 5.7° to the left of Propus, the toe, and 5.1° to the upper left of Tejat Posterior, the heel.
The moon is showing a beautiful display of earthshine between the lunar cusps or horns. The effect is from sunlight reflecting from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land. It gently illuminates the lunar night.
The moon appears in the same binocular field of view with the star cluster Messier 35 (M 35 on the chart.) The cluster has over 100 stars, shining from a distance of 2,800 light years. From the countryside, it can be seen without optical assistance as a blurry patch of light.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is high in the southeast, 13.2° to the lower left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and 11.3° to the upper left of Menkar, in Cetus. The Pleiades star cluster is to the left. Jupiter is slowly moving eastward against Aries. It is 8.3° to the west of Uranus. The Jovian Giant begins to retrograde on September 4th, short of the two planets fitting into the same binocular field of view.
At this hour Saturn is low in the southwest. While not as bright as Jupiter, it is brighter than most stars in the sky this morning. The planet is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 7.6° to the right of Skat and 7.1° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr). Use a binocular to see the dim stars, especially from urban and suburban areas.
Tomorrow Venus passes between Earth and the sun, known as inferior conjunction. The brilliant planet then jumps into the morning sky, rising nearly two hours before the sun at month’s end.
Mercury is retreating back into sunlight and fading in brightness. It sets only fifty-four minutes after sundown.
Mars is washed out by evening twilight. This evening it is the dimmest of the five bright planets. If it were visible it would rank about 35th on a stellar brightness list.
Nearing its opposition, Saturn rises in the east-southeast, less than forty minutes after sundown. At opposition, when Earth is between the Ringed Wonder and the sun, Saturn rises at sunset. It rises about three minutes earlier each evening.
By two hours after sunset, Saturn is nearly 15° above the east-southeast horizon. Find it in the south four hours later, and in the southwest tomorrow morning.
Jupiter rises in the east, less than three hours after Saturn.
- 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.