by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:47 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:33 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
October opens with eleven hours, forty-six minutes of daylight. Daytime’s light loses eighty-two minutes during the month, approximately two to three minutes each day.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Saturn is a challenging view in the west-southwest when Venus rises over three and one-half hours before sunrise. Fainter than Venus and Jupiter, the Ringed Wonder is dimmed and blurred by the thicker atmosphere near the horizon. This effect is easily seen when the sun and moon are near the horizon. A binocular is needed to see Saturn at this hour.
On the 10th, Venus and Saturn are 180° apart in the sky, a planet-to-planet opposition. After this date, Saturn sets before Venus rises. Saturn reappears in the morning sky during early 2024 and Venus passes by during April.
One hour before daybreak, the bright moon, 95% illuminated, is less than halfway up in the west-southwest and 9.7° to the lower right of bright Jupiter. The moon’s large eastward step since yesterday narrowed the gap to the Jovian Giant.
Jupiter is retrograding in front of Aries, 13.0° to the left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest stars. Without a binocular the dimmer stars that are frequently referenced in these daily forecasts are obliterated to the unassisted eye by the bright moonlight.
Venus and Mercury are farther eastward. At forty-five minutes before daybreak, brilliant Venus is over 30° above the east-southeast horizon, 7.1° to the upper right of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. The Morning Star passes Regulus October 9th.
Tomorrow morning, Venus passes Omicron Leonis (ο Leo on the chart). With this moonlight, find the dimmer star with a binocular.
Mercury retreats into brighter twilight, after its best morning appearance of the year. The planet is bright, but less than 5° up in the east. The atmospheric effects that dims Saturn are at work with Mercury, but the planet is bright enough to shine through the atmospheric influences.
Mars is not visible as it sets about 35 minutes after sunset. The Observer’s Handbook simply states, “Too close to the sun to be seen” (p. 116).
Saturn rises before sunset and it is over 20° up in the southeast at one hour after sundown. The planet is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 10.1° to the upper right of Skat, meaning “the leg,” and 10.6° to the right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart). About four hours after sunset, Saturn is in the southern sky and in the west-southwest when Venus rises in the morning.
Jupiter rises two hours after sundown. An hour later, the bright planet is over 15° up in the east, 2.6° to the lower right of the gibbous moon, 90% illuminated. As the calendar day ends, Jupiter and the lunar orb are in the southeast. By tomorrow morning they appear in the southwestern sky.
- 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.