2023, October 14: Solar Eclipse, Morning Planets

Photo Caption - Annular Solar Eclipse, October 14, 2023
Photo Caption – Annular Solar Eclipse, October 14, 2023


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:02 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:11 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

Today, the moon’s shadow races across the western hemisphere, first crossing the Oregon shoreline.  The eastward-bound shadow moves across Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas before crossing the Gulf of Mexico to meet the Yucatan Peninsula. The track parallels the coast of Central America, crossing into South America at Columbia, then making a hard eastward turn across Brazil to meet the Atlantic Ocean.  Sky watchers in the shadow’s path see an annular or ring eclipse, today commonly known as a “ring of fire” eclipse.

Photo Caption – Solar Projection of an annular eclipse.

Such eclipses occur when the moon is near its most distant point from Earth, called apogee, so that the lunar disk is not large enough to fully-cover the sun. The eclipse occurs about three and one-half days after the moon is at this far point. At the eclipse’s peak, a ring or annulus of light surrounds the moon.

Sky watchers outside the main shadow experience a partial eclipse, depending on their distance from the main shadow.  For sky watchers in Chicago, the moon covers 54% of the sun, while 85% is covered from Phoenix.

Photo Caption – Solar eclipse projection

The best way to observe the eclipse is by projecting the sun through a telescope or binocular to a screen.

Photo Caption, 2017, August 21: Projections of solar eclipse.

Another way is to use a small hole, such as one poked through aluminum foil.  When sunlight passes through the aperture, it makes an image of the eclipse on a white screen.

Photo caption – Eclipses from overlapping branches and leaves.

Overlapping leaves on a tree create natural pinholes projecting many eclipse images on the ground beneath the tree.

2017: Great American Solar Eclipse – The corona is visible.

This eclipse is a precursor to the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse that is visible across a large swath of North America.  Historical weather is not promising for a clear day, although April 8, 2023, was clear across a large part of the eclipse path at eclipse time. 

Next year’s eclipse occurs less than one day after the moon is at perigee, the closest point to Earth. The moon is large enough to fully cover the solar disk to reveal the sun’s corona.

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 14: Brilliant Venus is in the eastern sky in front of Leo before daybreak.

Two bright planets put on a show in the sky before daybreak on this eclipse morning.  One hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus is over 30° above the east-southeast horizon, 4.9° below Regulus, Leo’s brightest star.  The Morning Star continues its eastward trek in front of the distant stars.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 14: Through a binocular Venus appears with Regulus and Rho Leonis (ρ Leo).

Venus’ eastward change is easy to see from morning to morning.  The planet is approaching Rho Leonis, ρ Leo on the chart.  Look at the scene with a binocular.  Venus, Regulus, and Rho snugly fit into the same binocular field of view.  Rho Leonis is 2.3° to the lower left of the planet.  Venus passes the dimmer star in two mornings.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 14: Jupiter is in the west before sunrise, near Hamal and Menkar.

Farther westward at this hour, bright Jupiter is about 30° above the western horizon.  The Jovian Giant continues to retrograde in front of Aries, 12.5° to the left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, 11.2° to the upper right of Menkar, Cetus’ nostril, and over 18° below the Pleiades star cluster, part of Taurus.

Jupiter is slowly approaching an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar.  It lines up with the two stars on the 28th.

Technically, Mercury is in the morning sky, but it rises only twenty-two minutes before the sun.  It is not easily visible.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, October 14: Saturn is in the southeast after sundown near Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.

Mars is not visible, setting twenty-eight minutes after the sun, and like Mercury, is lost in the sun’s glare.  It reaches solar conjunction November 17th.

The third bright planet is Saturn, although it is not as dazzling as Venus or Jupiter.  An hour after sundown, the Ringed Wonder is nearly 30° up in the southeastern sky.  It is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 7.0° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.

During the night as the wheel of the sky turns westward.  Saturn is south over three hours after sundown.  It sets in the west-southwest over four hours before daybreak and before Venus rises.

Jupiter rises fifty-eight minutes after sunset and it is theoretically visible an hour after sunset when sky watchers look for Saturn.  An hour later, the Jovian Giant is over 10° up in the eastern sky.  As the calendar day ends, the planet is over halfway up in the east-southeast.  By tomorrow morning, it is again in the western sky.


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