2023, October 17: Scorpion Moon

2021, October 8: The crescent moon and Venus with Scorpius.
2021, October 8: The crescent moon and Venus with Scorpius.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:05 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:06 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.

No day at Chicago’s latitude experiences precisely eleven hours of daylight this year.  Today and tomorrow the length is within a minute of that mark.  After today, daylight is less than eleven hours until February 24, 2024.

Today the star Spica is in conjunction with the sun.  This means that the sun is between Earth and the distant star, with the sun’s brilliance overwhelming our view.  Spica returns to the morning sky early next month.

Antares, now in the southwestern evening sky, is the next bright star to pass solar conjunction on December 2nd.  Look for the crescent moon near the star during the next few evenings.

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

Photo Caption – Jupiter (NASA Photo)

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible twice through a telescope during this calendar day from the middle states. The first appearance occurs at 12:23 a.m. CDT.  The second occurs two Jupiter days later at 8:14 p.m. CDT.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 17: Brilliant Venus is in the eastern sky with Leo before sunrise, near Rho Leonis (ρ Leo).

Venus, less than a week, before its greatest separation from the sun, rises nearly four hours before daybreak.  It stands about 30° up in the east-southeast at one hour before sunrise and gleams through brighter twilight as the sun nears the eastern horizon.

The Morning Star is stepping eastward in front of Leo, 7.5° below Regulus, the Lion’s brightest star.  Their conjunction occurred October 9th.  Yesterday, Venus passed Rho Leonis (ρ Leo on the chart).  This morning Venus is 1.3° to the lower right of that star.

In less than a week, Venus passes nearly 10° from Chertan, in the Lion’s haunches, making a wide conjunction. The star’s name means “the two small ribs.”

Chart Caption – 2023, October 17: Jupiter is in the western sky before daybreak, nearly between Hamal and Mankar.

Jupiter, the second brightest starlike body this morning, is about 30° above the western horizon, nearly matching Venus’ altitude – height above the horizon.  The Jovian Giant is 12.3° to the left of Hamal, meaning the “full-grown lamb,” and 11.3° to the upper right of Menkar, meaning “the nostril.”  It is about 20° below the Pleiades star cluster that rides on the back of Taurus.  The Bull’s head is made by Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster.

Jupiter is retrograding as opposition nears next month.  It passes between Hamal and Menkar on the 28th.

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

Mercury reaches superior conjunction in three days and it is hiding in sunlight, rising only ten 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 is also hiding in bright sunlight, setting twenty-six minutes after the sun.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 17: The crescent moon appears near the Scorpion’s head in the western sky after sundown.

At forty-five minutes after sunset, the crescent moon, 11% illuminated, is only 5° above the southwest horizon.  It is at the Scorpion’s head, near Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii (π Sco on the chart).  Dschubba is known as the Scorpion’s forehead or crown.

Photo Caption – 2021, December 6: The moon with earthshine.

With the scene’s low altitude, use a binocular to see the stars, along with earthshine, from sunlight reflecting from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that softly illuminates the lunar night.

Look for Antares, 8.2° to the upper left of the lunar crescent.  This star disappears into evening twilight near Halloween – known as its heliacal setting.  It sets within a minute of sunset, known as the star’s cosmic setting, November 24th, at Chicago’s latitude.

Overnight from Southeast Asia, the moon occults or eclipses Sigma Scorpii (σ Sco on the chart).

Chart Caption – 2023, October 17: Saturn is in the southeast during the early evening.

As the sky grows darker, find Saturn nearly 30° up in the southeast at an hour after sundown.  It is not as bright as Jupiter or Saturn, but outshines most stars this evening.  It is retrograding in front of Aquarius, 6.9° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail.

Look for Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish, about 20° below Saturn.  Its presence in the evening sky is a signal that autumn has arrived.

Saturn is in the south about four hours after sundown.  It sets over four hours before sunup and before Venus rises.

Chart Caption – 2023, October 17: Jupiter is in the eastern sky at two hours after sundown.

At this hour Jupiter is low in the east-northeast.  It is bright enough to be seen near the horizon, through the haze that filters and blurs celestial objects.

By two hours after sundown, Jupiter is nearly 15° up in the east, below Hamal and to the upper right of the Pleiades.  Near midnight it is about halfway up in the east-southeast.  Tomorrow morning it is in the western sky again.


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