by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:22 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:14 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Saturn, after opposition last month, sets in the west-southwest nearly an hour before sunrise. It is visible in the southeast during the early evening.
At forty-five minutes before daybreak, brilliant Venus is nearly 20° up in the east. It rises earlier each morning compared to sunrise. It gains about five minutes of rising time compared to sunup each morning. At mid-month, it rises three hours before the sun.
Look for Sirius, over 40° to the right of Venus in the southeast, and nearly the same altitude – height above the horizon – as the planet.
There’s no predicted conjunction for Venus and Sirius, as the night’s brightest star is too far away from the plane of the solar system, known as the ecliptic. Look for them, the brightest planet and the brightest star in the eastern sky, during morning twilight.
Procyon is the star in the east-southeast, above an imaginary line from the Morning Star to the Dog Star.
The moon, 45% illuminated, is high in the east-southeast, 2.6° to the right of Elnath, also known as Beta Tauri. It is Taurus’ northern horn. The southern horn, Zeta Tauri, is 7.5° below the moon. Between the Bull’s horns is not an envious place to be.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is high in the south, over 35° to the upper right of the thick crescent moon. The Jovian Giant is retrograding in front of Aries, 13.6° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star and nearly 16° to the lower right of the Pleiades star cluster. Use a binocular to see the stellar bunch in this moonlight.
Mercury is emerging from bright sunlight after its inferior conjunction yesterday. In about a week, Mercury aficionados can find the planet low in the eastern sky, beginning its best predawn show of the year.
Mars is slowly slipping into bright evening twilight. The planet is dimmer than might be expected and it sets fifty-four minutes after the sun.
Saturn begins the planet parade that includes the bright planets Jupiter and Venus. The planet rises in the east-southeast before sundown. By two hours after the sun sets, it is over 20° above the southeast horizon. Remember to find a public observation session at a local astronomy club or science museum. Convince the neighborhood sky watcher to show you the planet through their telescope.
Saturn is retrograding in front of Aquarius. It nearly makes an equilateral triangle with Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart). Each side of the triangle is about 9° long, too great a separation to fit into the same binocular field. Start at Saturn and move to the lower right for Skat and from the planet to the upper left for Lambda Aquarii.
As the calendar day is reaching its end, Jupiter rises into the eastern sky, find it over 15° up in the east.
After midnight, the moon is low in the northeast.
Venus rises nearly two and one-half hours before sunrise tomorrow. Saturn sets 90 minutes later.
- 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.