2023, October 16: Venus in Starry Conjunction

Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus, October 15, 2015.
Photo Caption – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus, October 15, 2015.


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

See this week’s highlights article.

Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, October 16: Venus passes Rho Leonis (ρ Leo) in the eastern sky during morning twilight.

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 16: Through a binocular, Venus passes Rho Leonis (ρ Leo).

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 16: Jupiter is in the western sky during morning twilight.

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.

Chart Caption – Jupiter’s retrograde motion against the starfield is demonstrated for 2023.

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.

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

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.

Photo Caption – Mercury as Never Seen Before. (NASA photo)

Mercury, moving toward superior conjunction on the far side of the sun, is not visible, rising only fourteen minutes before the sun.

Evening Sky

Photo Caption – 2007, December 1: Late winter in the northern hemisphere shows clouds above the northern polar cap and some above the southern cap. (NASA Photo)

Mars, hiding in bright twilight, is not visible.  It sets only twenty-six minutes after sundown.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 16: The crescent moon is in the western sky during bright evening twilight.

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 16: An hour after sunset, Saturn is in the southeast.

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.

Chart Caption – Saturn’s retrograde – apparent westward movement compared to the distant stars – is depicted during four and one-half months.

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.

Photo Caption – Celebrate astronomy with local astronomy clubs. AI-generated telescopes during evening twilight. (Credit: Open AI)

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.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 16: Two hours after sunset, Jupiter is above the eastern horizon.

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.


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