by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:28 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:40 p.m. CST. 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:
The moon is half full (Last Quarter) this morning at 2:37 a.m. CST. At this hour, the lunar orb is nearly halfway up in the east, in front of Cancer’s dim stars between Pollux and Regulus.
Later during morning twilight, an hour before daybreak, the moon is high in the east-southeast.
Brilliant Venus is over 30° above the east-southeast horizon and over 40° to the lower left of the moon. It is stepping eastward in front of Virgo’s distant stars, 0.7° above Zavijava, also known as Beta Virginis. The Morning Star passes 0.5° from the star tomorrow morning. Use a binocular to locate the distant star near the planet.
Through a telescope, Venus shows phases. This morning the phase is gibbous, 57% illuminated. The name is morning gibbous phase.
Watch Venus move closer to the star Spica each morning. This morning Spica is nearly 5° up in the east, over 27° to the lower left of Venus. Beginning the 22nd, the planet is within 10° of the star, passing Spica in a wide conjunction a week later.
Farther westward, Jupiter is low in the western sky, less than 10° above the horizon. The gap from Venus to Jupiter is nearly 137°, widening each morning.
Mercury and Mars are not visible. Mercury is heading for its largest separation from the sun, known as greatest elongation, on December 4th. On that evening the planet is bright, but only 5° up in the southwest at 45 minutes after sundown. Its visibility suffers from a low angle of the solar system with the western horizon during the evening hours.
Mars is moving toward superior conjunction November 17th. The planet then slowly enters the morning sky. Mercury passes the Red Planet on January 27, 2024, followed by a conjunction with Venus nearly a month later.
An hour after sundown, Saturn is over 30° above the south-southeast horizon. It is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, but it outshines most of the other stars this evening. The Ringed Wonder’s illusion of retrograde ended yesterday and it is gently moving eastward, but initially at a slow rate. It remains in the same binocular field of view as Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail, 6.7° to the lower right of the planet. It is moving in the general direction of Skat and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).
Jupiter is over 10° up in the eastern sky at this hour. Sixty minutes later, it is almost 25° above the horizon. It retrogrades in front of Aries, noticeably west of an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar. A few days after its opposition, the planet shines in the sky all night.
- 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.