2023, August 14: Razor-Thin Morning Moon, See Uranus through a Binocular


August 14, 2023: A very thin crescent moon shines below Pollux in the east-northeast during morning twilight.  The planet Uranus is visible through a binocular.

Photo Caption – Mercury and the crescent moon, June 27, 2022.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:58 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:52 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times.

In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Friday, Aug. 12, 2016 in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Perseid meteor shower continues before morning twilight begins, but at a lower rate than at yesterday’s peak rate.  The center or radiant of the shower rises higher into the sky after midnight.  Most meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but mostly toward Perseus, the shower’s point of origin.

Summaries of Current Sky Events

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, August 14: The razor-thin crescent moon is below Pollux during morning twilight.

An hour before daylight, look for a razor-thin moon, 3% illuminated, nearly 10° above the east-northeast horizon.  It is 7.2° to the lower left of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins.

The New moon phase occurs in two mornings at 4:38 a.m. CDT.

Photo Caption – Crescent moon, February 27, 2022.

Attempt to see earthshine on the moon this morning.  The effect is weaker with the moon near the horizon.  Between the lunar cusps or horns, notice the gentle glow from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 14: Jupiter is high in the southeast before daybreak.

At this hour, bright Jupiter is high in the southeastern sky.  It is moving eastward in front of Aries, 13.1° to the lower left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star, and 11.3° to the upper left of Menkar, part of Cetus. Jupiter stops moving eastward against the starry background on September 4th and begins the illusion of retrograde as Earth overtakes and begins to move between the planet and the sun on November 2nd.

Notice the Pleiades star cluster, to the left of Jupiter, along with Aldebaran and the Hyades lower in the sky.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 14: Uranus is visible through a binocular between Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster.

Uranus is nearly between Jupiter and the Pleiades, but it does not fit into the same field with either.  It is in a starfield with the non-descript stars Delta Arietis (δ Ari on the chart), Zeta Arietis (ζ Ari), Tau Arietis (τ Ari), and 63 Arietis (63 Ari).  Uranus is dimmer than this quartet.  Place the stars near the top of the binocular field and Uranus is at the center, appearing as a dim aquamarine star.  A tiny globe can be seen through a telescope.

While the chart is dated, the planet is slow-moving and does not move far from day to day or week to week.  It can be used to find the planet for a few weeks.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 14: Saturn is in the southwest during morning twilight.

Saturn is farther westward, over 20° up in the southwest.  For urban and suburban sky watchers, the Ringed Wonder nearly stands alone because the background stars are faint.  A binocular is needed to see the distant stars through the veil of perpetual outdoor lighting.

While Saturn nears opposition on the 27th, it retrogrades, 7.8° to the right of Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, and 7.2° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).

Photo Caption – Venus as viewed from the Galileo spacecraft (NASA photo)

Venus passed inferior conjunction yesterday and it races into the morning sky.  The planet is still in bright sunlight.  In a week it rises nearly fifty minutes before the sun.

Evening Sky

Photo Caption – Mercury as Never Seen Before. (NASA photo)

Mercury continues its retreat into evening twilight. It is fading in brightness and sets fifty-one minutes after the sun.  It passes through inferior conjunction after midnight on September 6th.

Photo Caption – 2007, December 1: Late winter in the northern hemisphere shows clouds above the northern polar cap and some above the southern cap. (NASA Photo)

Mars is mostly a lost cause for spotting in the evening sky.  It is quite dim and slowly sliding into bright sunlight, setting seventy-seven minutes after the sun. Its visual hiatus lasts until early 2024.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 14: Saturn is in the east-southeast at two hours after sundown.

Saturn rises earlier each evening.  This evening it appears above the horizon thirty-three minutes after nightfall.  By two hours after sundown, the planet is nearly 15° above the east-southeast horizon.

The Ringed Wonder is south about four hours before sunrise tomorrow and in the southwest during morning twilight.

Jupiter rises less than three hours after Saturn and appears in the southeast before daybreak.



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