2023, October 7: Moon-Pollux Conjunction

Photo Caption – 2015, October 2: Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Regulus before sunrise


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:54 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:22 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 – Annular Eclipse 2012

For the October 14th solar eclipse, an easy way to observe its progress is to sit under a tree.  The annular or “ring of fire” eclipse is visible across a narrow path from America’s Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico.  Other regions see a partial eclipse. Without undue warnings, please do not look directly at the sun anytime.

Photo caption – Eclipses from overlapping branches and leaves.

Notice the spots of light under a tree on any sunny day.  The overlapping leaves and branches create pin holes, like that of a pinhole projector, made by tiny holes poked through aluminum foil.  Sunlight shines through those holes and makes tiny images of the sun on the ground.  During the eclipse, the images become crescents as the eclipse progresses.

While trees in more northern locations may have lost their leaves, the overlapping branches may create the pinholes needed to see the crescents.

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 7: The thick crescent moon is near Pollux before sunrise.

In three mornings, the Venus-Saturn opposition occurs.  The two planets are 180° apart in the sky.  Venus rises as Saturn sets. For several mornings Saturn has been in the haze near the horizon, perhaps visible through a binocular.

This morning, the Morning Star rises three hours, forty-six minutes before the sun and Saturn is quite low in the west-southwest, visible only with the optical aid.  The thicker air near the horizon blurs, reddens, and dims celestial objects.

By an hour before daybreak, the thick crescent moon, 41% illuminated, is high in the east-southeast, 1.7° to the lower right of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins. The lunar orb continues to step eastward each morning. 

The moon appears near Venus and Regulus in three mornings.  This morning the crescent is over 35° above the brilliant planet.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 7: Two mornings before their conjunction, Venus nears Regulus in the east-southeast.

Venus is nearly 30° above the horizon and 2.9° to the right of Regulus.  Their conjunction occurs in two mornings.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 7: Jupiter is in the west-southwest before daybreak.

At this hour, Jupiter is about 40° above the west-southwest horizon.  It continues to retrograde in front of Aries, 12.8° to the left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star, 11.2° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril, and 17.4° below the Pleiades star cluster, part of Taurus.

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

The planet is retrograding as Earth overtakes the more-distant planet.  Earth passes between the sun and Jupiter after midnight on November 3rd.  Jupiter rises at sunset, appears high in the southern sky near midnight, and sets at sunrise.  It is opposite the sun, in the same way that Venus and Saturn are nearly opposite.

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

Earlier this morning at 2:09 a.m. CDT, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible through a telescope at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere. The long-lived atmospheric disturbance is on the Earth-facing side of the planet for over an hour before and after its prime viewing time.

Photo Caption – Mercury as Never Seen Before. (NASA photo)

Bright Mercury is retreating into bright sunlight. Rising fifty-one minutes before the sun, it is only 3° above the horizon at thirty minutes before daybreak.

Evening Sky

These side-by-side images of Mars, taken roughly two years apart, show very different views of the same hemisphere of Mars. Both were captured when Mars was near opposition, which occurs about every two years, when Earth’s orbit catches up to Mars’ orbit. At that time, the Sun, Earth, and Mars fall in a straight line, with Mars and the Sun on “opposing” sides of Earth. (NASA Photo)

Mars is not visible, setting about thirty minutes after the sun.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 7: Saturn and Fomalhaut are in the southeast after sundown.

One hour after sunset, Saturn is nearly 25° above the southeast horizon.  The Ringed Wonder passed opposition August 27th and it continues to retrograde in front of Aquarius.  It is 7.3° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. Saturn and the star snugly fit into the same binocular field of view.

Look for Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish, over 5° above the horizon and about 20° below Saturn. 

Saturn is south less than four hours after sundown and disappears into the haze above the west-southwest horizon before Venus rises.

Jupiter rises in the east-northeast seventy-seven minutes after sundown.  As the calendar day ends, it is over halfway up in the east-southeast.  Tomorrow morning during twilight, it is in the west-southwest.

Photo Caption – Jupiter, center, and its moon Europa, left, are seen through the James Webb Space Telescope’s infrared sensors. The Great Red Spot is the bright oval on the lower right of the planet’s globe. (Image Credit: NASA)

At 10 p.m. CDT, the Great Red Spot is at center stage again, two Jupiter days after this morning’s show.


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