by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:34 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:35 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
From Chicago’s latitude, daylight is passing through the ten-hour mark. Today daylight’s length is one minute longer than that milestone, while tomorrow, it is one minute shorter.
For multiple days around the winter solstice, daylight is nine hours, eight minutes long. During the next forty-one days, daylight’s change slows. By the end of November, daylight loses nearly forty minutes.
Summaries of Current Sky Events
Summary for Venus as a Morning Star, 2023-24
Here is today’s planet forecast:
In the east-southeastern sky before sunrise, a thin crescent moon appears below brilliant Venus. An hour before daybreak, the Morning Star is 30° above the horizon and over 18° above the thin crescent moon, 18% illuminated.
Venus is stepping eastward in front of Virgo, 2.9° to the upper right of Zaniah, meaning “the corner.” Use a binocular to view the planet and the star.
Look for earthshine on the moon’s night portion from sunlight reflected from Earth’s oceans, clouds and land.
The crescent moon appears farther eastward tomorrow morning, over 3° to the lower left of Spica, meaning “the ear of corn,” the constellation’s brightest star.
At this hour Jupiter is less than 5° above the west-southwest horizon. This is one of the last mornings to see Jupiter at this hour. The planet is nearly 145° from Venus.
Venus rises five minutes short of four hours before sunrise, while the Jovian Giant sets over three hours later. On December 10th, the Venus-Jupiter gap is 180°. On this morning Jupiter sets as Venus rises. Afterward, Jupiter sets before the planet rises. After Jupiter passes behind the sun May 14, 2024, and returns to the morning sky, rejoining Venus during bright twilight ten mornings later with a very close conjunction.
Mercury and Mars are too close to the sun for easy observing.
An hour after sundown, Saturn is over 30° up in the south-southeast. It is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter. The Ringed Wonder is about 20° to the upper right of the star Fomalhaut, meaning “the mouth of the southern fish.”
Saturn is slowly moving eastward, 6.7° to the left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. The planet and the star appear in the same binocular field. Moving in front of the distant Aquarius starfield, Saturn is generally moving toward Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart).
Jupiter is farther eastward at this hour, nearly 15° above the eastern horizon. It retrogrades in front of Aries, 11.5° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star.
During the night Saturn and Jupiter appear farther westward. Saturn is in the south two hours after sundown, setting in the west around the midnight hour. Jupiter is south before midnight, setting in the west nearly forty-five minutes before sunrise tomorrow.
- 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.