by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:01 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:13 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
Tomorrow the moon’s shadow races across the western hemisphere. From the darkest shadow, the moon nearly covers the sun, but leaves a ring or annulus of the sun around its circumference. In recent years, this eclipse has been called a “ring of fire.”
During this decade, twenty-two eclipses occur. Eight of the eclipses are only partial, where no place on Earth experiences a total eclipse when the moon completely covers the sun and the corona is visible. Six are total, with the next one occurring April 8, 2024. Seven are annular, and one is a hybrid. Part of the eclipse track has a total eclipse and other regions see an annular type.
Sky watchers outside tomorrow’s annular eclipse track see a partial eclipse. From Memphis, Tennessee, observers see the moon cover 60% of the sun at 12:01 p.m. CDT.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus is 30° above the east-southeast horizon. It can be simply described as “that bright star” in the eastern sky before sunrise. It continues to step eastward in front of Leo’s distant stars, 4.1° below Regulus, the constellation’s brightest star. As the planet continues its eastward trek, it is moving toward Rho Leonis, ρ Leo on the chart. It passes the dimmer star on the 16th.
Venus, Regulus, and Rho fit snugly into the same binocular field. Watch Venus motion compared to the starfield each clear morning.
Leo is a westward-facing Lion. Its stars somewhat resemble a stick figure. Regulus is at the bottom of a backwards question mark, traditionally known as the “Sickle of Leo” and resembles the farm implement for cutting grain. To the lower left of Regulus, the haunches and tail are dotted by a triangle, with the tail star, Denebola, at the eastern vertex.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is in the western sky. It is nearly the same altitude – height above the horizon – as Venus. The two planets are over 110° apart in the sky. The gap continues to open until December when Jupiter sets as Venus rises. Then they are 180° apart.
Jupiter continues to retrograde in front of Aries’ distant stars, 12.5° to the left of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 11.3° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril. The planet slowly approaches an imaginary line between the two stars.
At 45 minutes before daybreak, look for a razor-thin crescent moon, 1% illuminated, nearly 5° up in the east. This is the last glimpse of a lighted moon before tomorrow’s eclipse and New moon phase. Use a binocular to initially locate the lunar orb.
Mercury retreats into bright sunlight, rising only twenty-seven minutes before the sun. It reaches superior conjunction after midnight on the 20th.
Mars is not visible, setting less than thirty minutes after the sun. It reaches solar conjunction November 17th.
One hour after sundown, Saturn is nearly 30° above the southeast horizon. The planet is brighter than most stars in the sky this evening, but not with the dazzling appearance of Venus or Jupiter.
The planet is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 7.1° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. The Ringed Wonder and the star tightly fit into the same binocular field of view.
Jupiter rises sixty-one minutes after sunset. About an hour later, it is over 10° above the eastern horizon. As the calendar day ends, the bright planet is over halfway up in the east-southeast. Tomorrow morning it is in the western sky.
The Jovian Giant rises earlier each evening and appears closer to the western horizon during morning twilight. It is at opposition when Earth is between the planet and the sun November 3rd.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.
- 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.