by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:03 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:10 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
The length of daylight approaches eleven hours. Today, the sun shines for seven minutes longer than that hourly mark. No day from Chicago’s latitude this year has that exact length. On the 17th and 18th, daylight is either a minute shorter or longer than that even number.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here is today’s planet forecast:
That bright star in the east during morning twilight is Venus. It outshines all other starlike bodies this morning.
The planet is stepping eastward against Leo’s distant stars, 5.8° below Regulus, the pattern’s brightest star. The Venus-Regulus conjunction occurred nearly a week ago.
Tomorrow Regulus passes the star Rho Leonis (ρ Leo on the chart). Use a binocular to see the star’s proximity to the Morning Star. Regulus fits snugly into the same field of view with them. Note Venus’ location during the next few mornings as it passes Rho and moves away toward the east.
Through a telescope, the planet shows a morning crescent phase, 46% illuminated. The planet is wrapped in clouds, so no surface features are visible with traditional telescopes.
Farther westward, bright Jupiter is less than halfway up in the western sky. It is the second brightest starlike body this morning.
The Jovian Giant is retrograding, appearing to move westward compared to the background stars, 12.4° to the left of Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and 11.3° to the upper right of Menkar, Cetus brightest star. The planet is over 18° below the Pleiades star cluster.
Watch Jupiter approach an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar. It crosses that line on the 28th.
Mercury continues its retreat into bright sunlight. It is not easily seen, rising only eighteen minutes before sunrise.
Just like Mercury, Mars is not visible because it is in bright evening twilight after sunset. It sets only twenty-seven minutes after the sun.
An hour after sundown, Saturn, retrograding in front of Aquarius, is nearly 30° up in the southeast, 7.0° to the left of Deneb Algedi, the tail of Capricornus.
Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish, is nearly 20° below the Ringed Wonder.
Saturn is in the south over three hours after nightfall. It sets in the west over four hours before sunrise and before Venus rises.
Jupiter rises fifty-five minutes after sundown and theoretically, it is visible low in the eastern sky an hour after sundown. The planet is bright enough to be seen when it is near the horizon.
Two hours after sundown, Jupiter is over 10° up in the east. It is about halfway up in the east-southeast as the calendar day ends. Tomorrow morning the planet is in the western sky when Venus is in the eastern sky before daybreak.
- 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.