by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:11 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:59 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 and Jupiter shine brightly during October mornings this year. Brilliant Venus, one day before greatest elongation, stands about 30° up in the east-southeast, one hour before sunrise. Simply described, it is “that bright star” in the eastern sky before sunrise.
The planet steps eastward in front of Leo, a westward-facing Lion. It passed Regulus, the figure’s brightest star on October 9th, and Rho Leonis (ρ Leo on the chart) a week later. Tomorrow, it has a wide conjunction, nearly 10°, with Chertan.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is in the western sky. It retrogrades, appears to move westward against the starfield, in front of Aries, 12.1° to the left of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
Retrograde motion is an illusion. Earth is overtaking distant Jupiter on an inside orbital track. As our faster moving planet moves between the Jovian Giant and the sun, the more-distant world seems to backup or move westward compared to the stars. Jupiter does not back up in its orbit, rather the line of sight from Earth through Jupiter that extends toward the starfield shifts westward, when it normally points eastward toward the stars.
In less than a week, Jupiter moves between Hamal and Menkar, part of Cetus.
Mercury is moving into the evening sky, but this evening it sets only five minutes after the sun. Similarly, Mars is immersed in bright twilight, setting seventeen minutes after Mercury, but Mars is moving toward solar conjunction during mid-November and entry into the morning sky. Mercury passes Mars before sunrise January 27, 2024. Venus passes the Red Planet about a month later.
This evening the gibbous moon approaches Saturn. The lunar orb is nearly 24° up in the south-southeast at one hour after sundown, 20.6° to the lower right of the Ringed Wonder.
Saturn is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, although it outshines most stars in the sky tonight. Like Jupiter, Saturn is retrograding against Aquarius. Earth passed between Saturn and the sun during August, but the line of sight through Saturn to the stars continues to move westward. The effect ends November 4th.
In this moonlight, use a binocular to see Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail, 6.8° to the right of the planet.
As Earth rotates during the night, Saturn is in the south three hours after sunset. It sets in the west-southwest five hours before sunrise, nearly two hours after moonset, and an hour before Venus rises.
At this hour, Jupiter is low in the east-northeast, nearly 5° above the horizon. By two hours after sundown, the Jovian Giant is over 15° above the eastern horizon. By midnight, the planet is in the southeast and by tomorrow morning, it is in the western sky.
- 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.