by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 7:24 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 5:44 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:
An hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon, 77% illuminated, is high in the south-southwest. It is near Castor’s foot, with the heel identified as Tejat Posterior. Castor is nearly 15° to the upper left of the lunar orb. His twin, Pollux, is nearby to the left. Look for Capella, the bright star over 20° to the right of the moon.
At this hour bright Jupiter is over 10° above the western horizon. It is noticeably west of an imaginary line from Hamal, Aries’ brightest star, and Menkar, Cetus’ nostril. The two stars are challenging to see with this moonlight. Use a binocular.
As Jupiter approaches opposition after midnight early tomorrow morning, it retrogrades – appears to move westward compared to the starfield. The planet is in the sky nearly all night.
Farther eastward, brilliant Venus stands over 30° up in the east-southeast. It steps eastward in front of Leo, crossing into Virgo’s boundaries tomorrow morning.
This morning Spica is making its first morning appearance. At forty-five minutes before sunrise, it is about 5° above the east-southeast horizon and over 30° to the lower left of Venus.
Venus steps quickly in front of Virgo’s stars. It passes Spica in a wide conjunction on the 29th. Watch Venus appear closer to the distant star each morning. In particular watch the gap close beginning a week before the conjunction when the planet is within 10° of the star.
Mercury and Mars are not visible. They appear too close to the sun for easy observation.
An hour after sundown, Saturn is over 30° up in the south-southeast. It is noticeably dimmer than Venus and Jupiter, but brighter than most of the stars in the sky tonight.
The Ringed Wonder is nearing the end of its retrograde in front of Aquarius and near the border with Capricornus. This evening, the planet is 6.7° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, meaning “the kid’s tail.”
After retrograde ends, the planet does not appear to move eastward much for the next several days. Then it picks up speed and begins to shrink the gap to Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart). From urban and suburban settings use a binocular to find these two stars, about 11° to the left of Saturn.
At this hour, Jupiter, rising a few minutes after nightfall, is over 10° up in the east. It is south around midnight and low in the west tomorrow morning.
Earth passes precisely between the planet and the sun a few minutes after midnight.
The moon rises about four hours after sundown. An hour later, it is in the east-northeast, 6.6° to the right of Castor. During morning twilight tomorrow, it is high in the southwest, near Pollux.
- 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.