by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:25 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:11 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:
This morning a lovely crescent moon is about halfway up in the eastern sky. The moon is 26% illuminated. Find it about an hour before daybreak.
Look for earthshine on the night portion, between the moon’s cusps or horns. This is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land. Photograph it with a tripod-mounted camera with exposures up to a second or two, depending on the camera’s characteristics. This effect is visible for the next few mornings as the moon wanes.
This morning the lunar orb is near the Gemini Twins, 7.3° to the right of Castor and 8.2° to the upper right of Pollux.
At this hour brilliant Venus is nearly 20° above the eastern horizon and nearly 30° below the moon. The Morning Star continues to appear higher in the sky each morning at the same time interval before sunrise. This morning the planet rises nearly one hundred, sixty minutes before the sun.
Venus and Sirius, night’s brightest star also known as the Dog Star, are nearly the same altitude – height above the horizon. This continues throughout the rest of the month. No close conjunction is predicted for the pair. Sirius is over 40° from the plane of the solar system, where the planets move against the distant stars. The result is that Venus and Sirius are about the same altitude, but far apart in the sky.
Look for Procyon – the Little Dog Star – is above an imaginary line from Venus to Sirius. The star’s name means “before the dog,” as it rises about thirty minutes before Sirius at the mid-northern latitudes. When Procyon is low in the eastern sky, the Dog Star rises soon.
Orion’s rosy Betelgeuse is over 30° above Sirius and about the same altitude as the Twins. The star’s name means “the armpit of the white-belted sheep.”
Farther westward, bright Jupiter is high in the south-southwest. The planet is the third brightest celestial body this morning, after the moon and Venus. The Jovian Giant is retrograding in front of Aries, 13.6° to the lower left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star, and 11.3° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril.
Mercury is quickly emerging from bright sunlight after its inferior conjunction. It is not far enough away from the bright sunlight to look for it this morning. It rises above the eastern horizon nearly twenty minutes before the sun.
Mars continues its slow slide into bright sunlight. It is much dimmer than expected, setting about fifty minutes after nightfall.
Saturn, past opposition, rises in the east-southeast before sunset. Two hours after the sun leaves the sky, it is nearly 25° up in the southeast. The planet retrogrades in front of Aquarius, 9.0° to the upper right of Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, and 9.2° to the right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).
The star Fomalhaut, the thirteenth brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes, is about 5° above the southeastern horizon and nearly 20° below Saturn.
As the wheel of the night seems to spin westward, Saturn appears in the south around midnight. Appearing farther westward during the new calendar day, the Ringed Wonder sets about 70 minutes before sunup, disappearing into the thicker layers of the atmosphere about thirty minutes earlier.
This evening Jupiter rises in the east-northeast less than two and one-half hours after sunset. By tomorrow morning it is high in the south-southwest.
- 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.