2023, October 8: Celestial Barnyard, Convergence at Regulus

Chart Caption – Venus, Mars, Moon, October 17, 2017


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Photo Caption – Annular Eclipse 2012

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:55 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:21 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.

On the 14th, the shadow of the moon races across the western U.S.  The moon is too far away to fully cover the sun.  At the maximum eclipse, a ring of sunlight surrounds the moon.  This is known as an annular or ring eclipse, popularly known as a “ring of fire” eclipse.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 14: The maximum solar eclipse for Chicago sky watchers.

Sky watchers in regions away from the track see a partial solar eclipse at its maximum for that location.  Sky watchers in Chicago see 43% of the sun covered.

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 8: Venus, crescent moon, and Regulus are in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Step outside at an hour before sunrise.  A lovely crescent moon, 32% illuminated, is over halfway up in the east-southeast.  It is over 20° above brilliant Venus.

With a binocular look toward the moon and put the lunar crescent near the upper left edge of the field of view.  The Beehive star cluster, also known as the Praesepe or manger, is to the lower right of the field.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 8: The crescent moon and the Beehive star cluster appear in the same binocular field of view.

The moon is in front of Cancer.  The stars are dim and the constellation is in a region, seemingly devoid of stars between Pollux and Regulus.

Photo Caption – The Beehive or Praesepe star cluster (National Science Foundation Photo).

The star cluster is another milestone along the ecliptic, like Messier 35 that the moon passed a few mornings ago.  The Beehive, Pleiades, Messier 35, and Hyades are known as open or galactic clusters.  The bundles are found in the plane of the galaxy and contain a few hundred stars.

From a location without the persistent glow of outdoor lighting, the Beehive is visible to the unaided eye as a dim, fuzzy cloud.

Two stars, Asellus Borealis (northern donkey) and Asellus Australis (southern donkey) are in the same starfield with the moon and star cluster. Perceiving the star cluster as a manger for feeding animals, the donkey pair is nearby, making a celestial barnyard.

Venus’ conjunction with Regulus occurs tomorrow.  This morning, the planet is 2.5° to the right of the star.

Regulus is part of Leo.  The pattern resembles the silhouette of a westward-facing Lion.  Regulus is at the bottom of a backwards question-mark pattern, traditionally known as the Sickle of Leo.  The back legs and tail are marked by a triangle with Denebola – the tail – at the shape’s eastern vertex.

In two mornings, the crescent moon joins Venus and Regulus.  The gathering fits into a circle 6.0° and snugly into a binocular’s field of view.  Such gatherings are not rare.  In the near future, they occur nearly each year.

They group together in a 2.6° circle in the evening sky on August 5, 2024, where Venus is less than 5° above the west-northwest horizon.

The following year, they gather again in the morning sky.  One hour before sunrise, when Venus is about 13° up in the east, they group in a circle 1.3° in diameter.  This will be a gorgeous sight!

During 2026, they group together again July 16th in a 7.8° circle, spilling outside a binocular field.  On this evening, Venus is about 12° up in the west.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 8: During morning twilight, Jupiter is in the west-southwest near Hamal and Menkar.

This morning, bright Jupiter is in the west-southwest, less than halfway up in the sky from the horizon to overhead.  The planet continues to retrograde in front of Aries, 12.7° to the left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, 11.2° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril, and over 17° below the Pleiades star cluster, part of Taurus.

Mercury is moving toward superior conjunction with the sun on the 20th.  It is approaching Sirius’ brightness, but it is locked in bright, predawn twilight. Today, it rises forty-seven minutes before sunup. During the next week it loses four minutes of rising time each morning compared to sunrise.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, October 8: After nightfall, Saturn is in the southeast near Deneb Algedi.

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

One hour after sunset, Saturn is nearly 25° up in the southeast.  It retrogrades in front of Aquarius, 7.2° to the left of Deneb Algedi, the tail of Capricornus.  As Earth rotates during the night, Saturn appears farther westward, reaching the south cardinal direction nearly three and one-half hours after sunset.  It disappears into the haze in the west-southwest before Venus rises.

Jupiter, heading for opposition, rises seventy-four minutes after sunset.  Near midnight, it is about halfway up in the east-southeast.  By the time morning twilight begins tomorrow, the bright planet is in the west-southwest.



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