2023, August 31:  Bright Moonlight, Planets Parade During Night

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


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:26 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.

Photo Caption – Sunrise, July 3, 2022.

During the month, daylight has shed 71 minutes from the season’s changes and the southern movement of the sun on the horizon at sunrise and sunset, and lower noontime places.

Today, daylight is thirteen hours, eleven minutes long.

The five-planet morning parade continues with Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn easily visible.  Uranus is easy to locate through a binocular between Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster.  The challenging view, even through a binocular, is locating Neptune in a dim Pisces starfield, over 20° to the upper left of Saturn.  For sky watchers interested in seeing the two more distant planets, see the directions in the August 27th article.

 Summaries of Current Sky Events

Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, August 31: Saturn and the bright moon are in the west-southwest during morning twilight.

As the new calendar day begins, the bright Blue Supermoon is over 30° up in the south-southeast, with Saturn 6.6° to the lunar orb’s upper right.  Moonlight washes across the sky, dimming the stars and lighting the terrestrial landscape.

During the night, the wheel of the sky seems to spin westward and by an hour before daybreak, the moon is nearly 15° up in the west-southwest and 8.8° to the upper left of Saturn.

The gap from the moon opened during the night from the moon’s eastward motion. It is the fastest moving of all the bright celestial bodies.  It moves eastward nearly 13° each night from its eastward orbital motion.

While the background stars are challenging to see in this bright moonlight, Saturn and the moon are in front of Aquarius’ dim stars.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 31: Before sunrise, Jupiter is high in the south near Hamal and the Pleiades star cluster. Use a binocular to see the cluster.

Farther eastward, Jupiter is high in the south in front of Aries, 13.6° to the lower left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star, and nearly 16° to the lower right of the Pleiades star cluster, muted by the bright moonlight.  Use a binocular to locate the stellar bundle.

Chart Caption – 2023, August 31: Venus, Sirius, and Procyon are in the eastern sky before sunrise.

At this hour, Venus is low in the eastern sky, less than 10° up.  The Morning Star rises six to seven minutes earlier each morning compared to sunrise.  Since its inferior conjunction on the 13th, it has gain nearly 110 minutes of rising time compared to daybreak.

Sirius, night’s brightest star, is low in the southeast, likely twinkling wildly.  It is about 40° to the upper right of Venus.  As Venus moves eastward, it does not pass closely to the Dog Star because Sirius is nearly 40° south of the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system.

Beginning about September 10th and running to about October 1st, Venus and Sirius are about the same altitude – height above the horizon – during morning twilight.

 Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, August 31: Saturn and the moon are in the eastern sky after sundown.

Mercury and Mars are hiding in bright evening twilight.  Mercury is heading for inferior conjunction – between Earth and Sun – on September 6th.  It races into the morning sky for its best appearance of the year.

Mars is much dimmer than expected.  While it sets about an hour after sundown, it is washed out by evening twilight.

One evening after the Blue Supermoon, the lunar orb is farther eastward.  At two hours after sundown, the moon is above the eastern horizon, nearly 20° to the lower left of Saturn that is over 10° above the east-southeast horizon.

It should be noted that the moon appears near Neptune this evening as the night progresses and the moon is higher in the sky.  The moonlight easily overwhelms the light from this distant world.  Early in the evening, the planet is 4.2° to the upper left of the bright moon, but looking for it is likely a lost cause. A bright moon is not good for seeing dimmer celestial wonders.

Jupiter rises nearly three hours after sundown and about two hours after the moon.


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