by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:31 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:37 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:
An hour before sunrise, the lovely crescent moon, 22% illuminated, is less than halfway up in the southeast and 9.9° to the upper right of brilliant Venus. They are too far apart to fit into the same binocular field of view. Tomorrow the pair is in the same field of view with the star Zaniah, 5.1° to the lower left of Venus this morning.
The moon is displaying earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth’s oceans, clouds, and land that gently illuminates the lunar night between the cusps or horns.
Venus is noticeably farther eastward against the Virgo starfield each morning. Its conjunction with Spica, nearly 25° to Venus’ lower left and almost 10° above the horizon at this hour, on the 29th.
Bright Jupiter is over 5° above the west-northwest horizon at this hour, after is all night trek westward. The Venus-Jupiter gap is over 140° this morning. On December 10th, they are 180°. Afterward, Jupiter sets before Venus rises.
Mercury and Mars are not visible. Mercury is moving toward its greatest separation from the sun December 4th. During this apparition, it suffers from a poorly inclined ecliptic, the solar system’s plane, during the early evening hours. It stands low in the southwest after sundown.
Mars is moving toward solar conjunction November 17th. NASA JPL pauses command communications with Mars probes when the Red Planet is within 2° of the sun. The hiatus occurs November 11-25. There is great concern that operational commands might be affected by the sun’s electromagnetic effects. Some probes record data for later transmission while other instruments continue to send data. While the spacecraft are largely idle, like shutting down to go to the beach, the controllers may do that.
Saturn is over 30° above the south-southeastern horizon after nightfall. While its retrograde has ended, the planet still seems stationary, 6.7° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi. As it picks up eastward speed, it moves in the general direction of Skat, the Aquarian’s leg and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart). The Ringed Wonder is nearly 20° to the upper right of the star Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish.
Saturn is south over two hours after sundown. It sets in the west-southwest around midnight.
An hour after sundown, Jupiter is nearly 15° up in the east. Wait another hour to see it higher in the sky. The planet is retrograding in front of Aries. It is west of an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar.
During the night, Jupiter is south around midnight and low in the western sky during morning twilight.
- 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.