by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:58 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:16 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 moon’s shadow races from the Pacific Oregon coast to the Gulf of Mexico. Sky watchers along the narrow shadow path see an annular or ring eclipse. The moon is too far away from Earth to create a total eclipse, but a ring of sunlight surrounds the moon. In recent popular lingo, the event is known as a “ring of fire” eclipse.
Observers outside the path of annularity see a partial eclipse. From Columbus, Ohio, the maximum eclipse, 38%, occurs at 1:07 p.m. EDT.
One way to see the eclipse occur is to project the sun’s image. During a recent outing, this writer saw three circles of light on a cement floor in an old garage. Sunlight streamed through three holes in a metal roof. On eclipse day these circles have the appearance of the eclipse. Locations like this allow for a group observation of the solar eclipse.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Saturn sets about four hours before sunrise. It disappears into the haze near the horizon, over thirty minutes earlier.
This morning, brilliant Venus is 30° up in the east-southeast and 2.8° to the lower right of Regulus, Leo’s brightest star. The Morning Star continues to step eastward in front of the Lion.
The crescent moon, 10% illuminated, is over 20° above the eastern horizon and 11.2° to the lower left of Venus.
Look for earthshine on the moon’s night portion between the cusps or horns. The effect is from sunlight reflecting from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that softly illuminates the lunar night.
Regulus is at the bottom of a backwards question mark, also known as the “Sickle of Leo,” a farmer’s implement for cutting grain. This shape outlines the head of the westward-facing Lion. The animal’s haunches and tail are dotted by a triangle, with Denebola the eastern-most star. This tail star is over 13° to the lower left of the crescent.
Bright Jupiter is less than halfway up in the west-southwest at this hour, 108° from Venus. The Jovian Giant retrogrades in Aries, 12.6° to the left of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 11.1° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril.
Retrograde motion is an illusion as our planet overtakes and passes an outer planet and the sun. Normally, the planets appear to move eastward against the starry background. Our faster moving planet creates the appearance that the planet is backing up or moving westward against the starfield. Watch Jupiter move between Hamal and Menkar.
Mercury retreats into bright sunlight, moving toward its superior conjunction. It rises about thirty minutes before the sun.
Mars is not visible. It sets during bright twilight, shortly after sundown.
Saturn, not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, is over 25° above the southeast horizon at an hour after sundown. It is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 7.1° to the left of Deneb Aldegi, the tail of Capricornus. Both fit snugly into the same binocular field of view.
Look for Fomalhaut, over 20° below Saturn. It represents the mouth of the Southern Fish, Piscis Austrinus.
Jupiter, heading for opposition on November 3rd, rises sixty-six minutes after sunset. About an hour later it is nearly 10° above the eastern horizon. As midnight approaches the planet is over halfway up in the east-southeast. Tomorrow morning when Venus is in the eastern sky, Jupiter is in the west-southwest.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.