by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here are the celestial events for the week:
Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise. The Morning Star is in the east and the Jovian Giant is in the western sky. Saturn is in the southeast after sundown. Jupiter rises in the eastern sky during the early evening and rises higher into the sky as the night proceeds.
Venus passes 1.1° to the lower right of Rho Leonis (ρ Leo on the chart), a milestone along the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system where the sun, planets, and moon move.
A binocular may be needed to see the planet with the star.
Find the brilliant Morning Star about 30° up in the east-southeast an hour before sunrise. It can be followed into brighter twilight.
Venus is over 6° to the lower left of Regulus, the Lion’s brightest star. The planet passed the star a week ago, and it continues stepping eastward against the starry background.
Venus is in the eastern predawn sky until early spring 2024.
Tuesday, October 17
Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, is in conjunction with the sun today. It reappears in the east-southeast early next month.
The crescent moon, 11% illuminated, is low in the southwest, near the head of Scorpius. At forty-five minutes after sundown, find the crescent only about 5° above the southwest horizon. Use a binocular to see Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii (π Sco on the chart). In celestial artwork, Dschubba marks the Scorpion’s forehead or crown.
Overnight from Southeast Asia, the moon occults or eclipses Sigma Scorpii (σ Sco on the chart).
Notice earthshine on the moon. The effect is sunlight reflecting from Earth’s clouds, oceans, and land. It softly illuminates the lunar night between the moon’s cusps or horns.
Photograph earthshine with a tripod-mounted camera and exposures up to a few seconds.
Wednesday, October 18
Again, this evening at 45 minutes after sunset, look for the crescent moon, 18% illuminated, nearly 10° above the southwest horizon, and 5.0° to the upper left of Antares, meaning the “rival of Mars.”
As with yesterday, look for earthshine on the lunar night portion.
Thursday, October 19
Find planet Uranus with a binocular during the early morning hours. The planet is fairly easy to locate, about midway from Jupiter to the Pleiades star cluster.
Jupiter is in the west-southwest before sunrise. The Pleiades are above it. They are too far apart to fit into the same binocular field with Uranus.
Point the binocular about midway between them and find the starfield that contains 63, 65, Delta (δ), Zeta (ζ) and Tau (τ) in Aries.
Uranus is distinctly dimmer than the reference stars and aquamarine in color. The planet’s globe is revealed through a telescope.
Friday, October 20
Mercury is at superior conjunction today on the far side of the sun. The planet, sun, and earth are in a line and the speedy planet is not visible.
Mercury moves into the evening sky reaching its largest separation from the sun, known as the greatest elongation, December 4th. That evening the planet sets 75 minutes after sundown. Thirty minutes earlier it is less than 5° above the southwest horizon.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks tomorrow evening when the constellation is below the horizon in the western hemisphere. Maximum rate is predicted to be about 30 meteors per hour.
Orion rises in the eastern sky near midnight. Meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but seem to emerge from space to the upper left of Betelgeuse, Orion’s shoulder. The pattern is in the southern sky before morning twilight begins.
The meteors are vaporizing debris from Comet Halley.
Saturday, October 21
The moon is at its First Quarter phase at 10:29 p.m. CDT. An hour after sunset this evening, the half-lit moon is over 20° above the southern horizon.
The moon reaches its Full phase October 28th at 3:24 p.m. CDT. This is the evening of the Hunter’s Moon.
Sunday, October 22
The week ends with the moon, 60% illuminated and in front of Capricornus, approaching Saturn.
The Ringed Wonder is over 20° to the upper left of the lunar orb this evening. It is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 6.8° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.
- 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.