2023, October 3:  Venus Targets Regulus, Moon Hangs with the Pleiades



by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:50 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:29 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
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, October 3: Venus and Regulus are in the eastern sky before sunrise.

In a week, Saturn sets before Venus rises, when the two planets are 180° apart in the sky. After this planet-to-planet opposition, Saturn sets before Venus rises.  Saturn returns to the morning sky with Venus during 2024.

This morning, Saturn is theoretically visible in the west-southwest as Venus rises.  The Ringed Wonder is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter.  It is dimmed, reddened, and blurred by the air when we look toward the horizon.  This is the same effect we see with the sun and moon while they are rising or setting.

This morning, Venus rises three hours, forty-one minutes before sunrise, Saturn sets twenty-seven minutes later.

By one hour before daybreak, the Morning Star is nearly 30° above the east-southeast horizon, 5.4° to the upper right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.  Venus is enroute to a conjunction with Regulus on the 9th.  Watch Venus close the gap to Regulus each morning.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 3: Jupiter and the gibbous moon are in the western sky during morning twilight.

Farther westward, bright Jupiter and the moon are in the western sky. Jupiter is 12.9° to the left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and 11.2° to the upper right of Menkar, Cetus’ nostril.

Chart Caption – Jupiter’s retrograde motion against the starfield is demonstrated for 2023.

The Jovian Giant is retrograding in front of a distant starfield.  Usually, the planets appear to move eastward against the stars.  When Earth overtakes and passes between a more-distant planet and the sun, the outer planet appears to backup or move westward against the starfield, an illusion from our faster-moving planet overtaking the distant world.  Watch Jupiter seem to move backwards as it moves closer to an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 3: The gibbous moon and the Pleiades star cluster are in the same binocular field of view.

The moon, 80% illuminated, is 2.7° to the upper left of the Pleiades star cluster.  Find the moon and the stellar bundle through a binocular that greatly amplifies the moon’s brightness.  An afterimage, a temporary spot in the vision, of the moon may appear.  To see the cluster alone, move the binocular so that the moon is out of the view.  Then the star cluster appears near the upper left of the field.

Mercury is slipping into bright morning twilight.  The planet is bright, but visible as the sky brightens.  Use a binocular to find it over 5° above the east cardinal direction at 35 minutes before sunup.  Find a spot, such as an elevated structure, hilltop, or shoreline, with a clear horizon looking toward the east.

Evening Sky

The Red Planet from the Mars Global Surveyor shows the effects of a global dust storm (NASA)

Mars is not visible as it sets about 35 minutes after sunset. 

Chart Caption – 2023, October 3: Saturn is in the southeast near Skat and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr).

Saturn rises before the sun sets and it is nearly 25° above the southeast horizon.  Saturn is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 10.1° to the upper right of Skat, the Aquarian’s knee, and 10.7° to the right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).

The referenced stars are likely a challenge to see in urban and suburban settings from the perpetual glow of outdoor lighting.  Further, they are outside the binocular field with Saturn.  Start at the Ringed Wonder and move the binocular in the appropriate direction to each star.

During the night Saturn is farther westward.  Around four hours after sunset, it is south and tomorrow morning it is low in the west-southwest as Venus rises.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 3: Three hours after sunset, Jupiter and the gibbous moon are in the eastern sky.

Jupiter rises less than ninety minutes after nightfall, and ninety minutes later, the planet is nearly 20° above the eastern horizon. The gibbous moon, 74% illuminated, is a few degrees above the east-northeast horizon.

As midnight approaches, Jupiter is less than 45° above the east-southeast horizon. Tomorrow during twilight, it is in the west-southwest.


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