by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:04 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:08 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Venus is that bright star in the eastern sky during morning twilight. The Morning Star rises nearly four hours before sunrise. It can be seen through bright twilight.
Venus is stepping eastward in front of Leo, 6.6° to the lower left of Regulus, the Lion’s brightest star. This morning, the planet passes Rho Leonis (ρ Leo on the chart), a milestone along the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system where we see the sun, moon, and planets move.
While Regulus is the brightest star closest to the ecliptic, Rho, considerably dimmer, is closer to the planets’ track. Venus passes Rho again August 9, 2024, but this occurs during bright evening twilight. After that difficult-to-see conjunction, the queen of the morning sky passes through again, before sunrise during late September 2025.
For sky watchers in urban and suburban settings, where the sky is dogged by the perpetual glow of outdoor lighting, use a binocular to see Venus and the star.
Jupiter is farther westward, 30° above the western horizon at an hour before daybreak, 12.4° to the upper left of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, 11.3° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril, and nearly 20° below the Pleiades star cluster, part of Taurus.
As Earth overtakes and passes between Jupiter and the sun on November 3rd, the Jovian Giant appears to back up or retrograde compared to the distant starfield. The planet seems to be approaching an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar. The three are lined up on the 28th.
For sky watchers with telescopes, at 4:32 a.m. CDT, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere.
Mercury, moving toward superior conjunction on the far side of the sun, is not visible, rising only fourteen minutes before the sun.
Mars, hiding in bright twilight, is not visible. It sets only twenty-six minutes after sundown.
For sky watchers with exceptional views toward the southwestern horizon, look for a razor-thin moon about 5° above the west-southwest horizon at twenty minutes after sunset. A binocular is needed locate the lunar crescent in this bright twilight.
One hour after nightfall, Saturn is about 30° up in the southeast. The planet is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, but it is among the brightest stars in the sky this evening.
The planet retrogrades in front of Aquarius. While opposition occurred August 27th, the planet continues to retrograde. This evening, it is 6.9° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.
During the night as Earth rotates and the starry sky appears farther westward, Saturn is in the south over three hours after sundown. It sets in the west-southwest over four hours before daybreak and before Venus rises.
With the return of the crescent moon to the evening sky, many astronomy clubs and science museums sponsor telescope nights this weekend. Find out about local astronomy events to see the crescent moon and Saturn through telescopes or ask your neighborhood sky watcher for a peek of Saturn through their telescope.
Rising earlier each evening, Jupiter appears above the eastern horizon fifty-three minutes after nightfall. Until its opposition date, the planet is easily visible after sunset and before sunrise.
Two hours after sundown, the planet is over 10° above the eastern horizon, to the upper right of the Pleiades and below Hamal. As the calendar day ends, the planet is over halfway up in the east-southeast and in the western sky during tomorrow’s morning twilight.
- 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.