2023, October 10:  Morning Venus-Moon-Regulus Gathering, Venus-Saturn Opposition

2021, October 8: The crescent moon and Venus with Scorpius.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:57 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:18 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 10: From space, Venus, Earth and Saturn are in line. Venus and Saturn are on opposite sides of Earth.

Venus and Saturn are at opposition today.  This means they are 180° apart in the sky so that Saturn sets as Venus rises.  After today, Saturn sets before Venus rises.  They do not appear in the sky at the same time until April 2024, after Saturn’s current appearance ends with its solar conjunction, February 28, 2024.

Saturn is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter.  The Ringed Wonder disappeared into the haze near the horizon several days ago.  Its visibility near the horizon is greatly affected by the thick layer of air near the horizon that blurs, reddens, and dims celestial objects.  The effect is easily noticeable with the rising or setting sun and moon.  These brilliant celestial objects appear orange, dimmer, and flattened compared to when they are higher in the sky.

So, while the visual opposition of Venus and Saturn occurred several days ago, the astronomical opposition occurs today.

In comparison, Venus and Jupiter are at opposition on December 10th.  These planets are bright enough that they can be followed to the horizon.  While their light experiences the optical effects of the atmosphere, they are bright enough to shine through this hazy effect.

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 10: Venus, crescent moon, and Regulus gather in the eastern sky before sunrise.

This morning brilliant Venus, the crescent moon, and the star Regulus, the brightest in Leo gather in the eastern sky before sunrise.  Step outside about an hour before daybreak, the queen of the morning sky shines brightly about 30° above the horizon.  It is brighter than all starlike bodies in the sky and it can be mistaken for lights on an airplane.  Venus can be simply described as “that bright star” in the east before sunrise.

Regulus is 2.4° to the upper left of Venus.  Yesterday, Venus passed closest to the star.  While they appear close in the sky, Regulus is nearly eighty light years away, while Venus is a mere 55 million miles away, in comparison.

Photo Caption – 2020, July 17: The crescent moon appears near Venus before sunrise. The night portion of the moon is gently illuminated by earthshine.

The moon, 16% illuminated, is 5.9° to the upper left of Venus. Notice earthshine between the moon’s cusps or horns.  This is from sunlight that reflects from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land to softly light up the lunar night.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 10: Through a binocular, Venus, the crescent moon, and Regulus easily fit into the same field of view.

Venus, crescent moon, and Regulus easily fit into a binocular’s field of view. While visible to the unaided eye, the binocular’s optical property visually brightens earthshine.

These gatherings are rather frequent in upcoming years.  During 2024, they fit into a circle 2.6° in diameter and easily into a binocular field in the evening sky. On August 5th, Venus is less than 5° above the horizon at thirty minutes after sunset.

A year later, September 19, 2025, again in the morning sky, the three celestial bodies fit into a circle only 1.3° in diameter, a wonderful sight.

During 2026, on July 16th, they fit into a 7.8° circle, spilling outside a binocular field of view.  One hour after sunset, Venus is nearly 12° up in the west.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 10: During morning twilight Jupiter is in the west-southwest.

This morning, bright Jupiter is over 35° up in the west-southwest when the gathering appears in the eastern sky.  The Jovian Giant continues to retrograde in front of Aries, 12.6° to the left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and 11.2° to the upper right of Menkar, Cetus’ nostril.  The planet is nearly 20° below the Pleiades star cluster, part of Taurus.

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

The illusion of retrograde appears to make the planet move westward in the starfield.  It is moving between Hamal and Menkar.  Watch it each clear morning.

Mercury continues its retreat into bright predawn twilight. Exiting its best morning appearance of the year, the speedy planet rises thirty-eight minutes before sunrise.  It is lost in the sun’s light.

Evening Sky

Mars is not visible, setting about thirty minutes after sundown.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 10: After nightfall, Saturn is in the southeastern sky.

By an hour after sunset, Saturn is over 25° above the southeast horizon.  It retrogrades in front of Aquarius’ dim stars, 7.2° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.  Less than four hours after sundown, the Ringed Wonder is south.  The planet sets nearly four hours before sunrise and before Venus rises.

During the early evening look for Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish, about 20° below Saturn.

Bright Jupiter rises sixty-eight minutes after nightfall. About an hour later it is about 10° above the east-northeast horizon.  As the calendar day ends, the planet is about halfway up in the east-southeast and in the west-southwest tomorrow morning.


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