2023, October 12: Bright Morning Planets Bookend Stellar Spectacular

Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus, October 15, 2015.
Photo Caption – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus, October 15, 2015.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 6:59 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:14 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

In two days, an annular or ring eclipse is visible from a path across the western and southwestern U.S.  The moon is near apogee, the farthest point in its orbit, and it does not completely cover the sun.  At the maximum eclipse a ring of sunlight surrounds the moon. 

Chart Caption – 2023, October 14: The view of New York City’s solar eclipse at its maximum.

From across the western hemisphere a partial eclipse is visible.  From New York City, the sun is 23% covered at 1:22 p.m. EDT.

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 12: Venus, the crescent moon, and Leo are in the eastern sky during morning twilight.

Two morning planets, Venus and Jupiter bracket the Milky Way’s Orion region that is in the southern sky before sunrise.

At one hour before sunup, brilliant Venus is 30° up in the east-southeast, 3.4° below Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.  The Morning Star continues to step eastward against the distant starfield.

Regulus is at the bottom of a shape resembling a backwards question mark, known as the “Sickle of Leo.”  The pattern is a westward-facing Lion that we see in silhouette. The animal’s haunches and tail are made by a triangle to the lower left of Regulus.  Denebola, the Lion’s tail, dots the triangle’s eastern vertex.

This morning, the crescent moon, 5% illuminated, is over 10° above the eastern horizon and 10.0° to the lower right of the tail star.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 12: Jupiter is in the west-southwest before sunrise.

Bright Jupiter is less than halfway up in the west-southwest, 12.5° to the left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and 11.2° to the upper left of Menkar, part of Cetus.  The planet retrogrades, appears to move westward against the starfield, and approaches an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar.

The Pleiades star cluster, part of Taurus, is nearly 18° above the planet.  The stellar bundle is on the western extreme of the bright Orion congregation. The Bull’s head is made by bright Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster.

Chart Caption – Mid-October: The bright stars of the Orion region are in the southern sky before daybreak.

Orion, the flagship constellation of the region, is about halfway up in the west-southwest with bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel. This area of the sky has six of the ten brightest stars visible from the mid-northern latitudes.  Sirius, night’s brightest star, is over 30° up in the southern sky, but slightly east of the south cardinal direction.

Procyon, part of Canis Minor, is over halfway up in the sky to the upper left of Sirius.  Notice that Sirius, Betelgeuse and Procyon make nearly an equilateral triangle, known as the Winter Triangle.

Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins are higher in the sky, to the east of Auriga’s pentagon shape.

Sirius made its first morning appearance during August, while the Twins and Auriga appeared earlier in the summer season.  Each morning, they are slightly farther westward.

If you are looking for Jupiter during the early evening, the Pleiades are in the sky at that time.  By early winter, Orion’s region is in the eastern sky after sundown.  During February, the stellar assembly is in the south during the early evening.  Near mid-spring, Orion leaves the sky during evening twilight, returning to the eastern sky during early summer mornings.

The constellation Orion rises into view during the early evening hours of February each year.

Use a binocular to explore the bright stars’ colors from rosy to sapphire, the bright star clusters, and the Orion nebula, below the Hunter’s belt. To see the gaseous cloud, hold the binocular so that the belt stars are at the top of the field of view.  The nebula is to the bottom left, appearing as a greenish hazy patch.  Even with the optical assist, the colors in the beautiful photos do not appear.

This morning Mercury, coming off its best morning appearance of the year, hides in bright predawn twilight.  It rises only thirty minutes before the sun.

Evening Sky

Mars is not visible.  It sets about thirty minutes after the sun.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 12: Saturn is in the southeastern sky after sundown.

Saturn, not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, is nearly 30° above the southeast horizon at one hour after sunset.  It retrogrades in front of Aquarius, 7.1° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.

Look for Fomalhaut, the Mouth of the Southern Fish, about 20° below Saturn.

Saturn is not much to see through a binocular, perhaps a tiny extension of the rings might be visible. Through a telescope at around 80x magnification, the rings are easily visible.  With the rings, the planet appears to be about the diameter of a number two pencil eraser held at arm’s length.

If you have not had an opportunity to look at the Ringed Wonder through a telescope, find a telescope event at a local science museum or astronomy club.  Better yet, convince the neighborhood sky watcher to show you Saturn through their telescope.

Jupiter rises sixty-four minutes after sundown.  About an hour later, the Jovian Giant is over 10° above the eastern horizon.  As midnight approaches, it is over halfway up in the east-southeast.  At this hour, Orion is above the eastern horizon.  Tomorrow morning the bright morning planets again bookend the bright stars in the Orion region.



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