by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:44 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:28 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 daybreak, brilliant Venus stands nearly 30° above the southeast horizon. By far, it is the brightest starlike body in the sky this morning and only the sun and moon routinely are brighter. It is easily mistaken for an airplane or an unworldly object.
The planet continues to step eastward in front of Virgo, enroute to a wide conjunction with Spica, the pattern’s brightest star, on the 29th. Yesterday, the planet passed Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis. This morning, Venus is 1.8° to the lower right of the star. A binocular might be needed to see the star for sky watchers in urban or suburban settings.
At this hour, Jupiter is not visible, but look about three hours before daybreak. The Jovian Giant is nearly 20° up in the west, while Venus is about half that altitude – height above the horizon – in the east-southeast. The Venus-Jupiter gap is over 152° and widening each morning.
Mars is west of the sun, rising only a minute or two before sunrise. It is visible during the new year. Its first conjunction is with Mercury during late January, followed by a Venus conjunction nearly a month later.
Mercury is not easily visible. It is over 5° above the southwest horizon at sunset and sets forty-six minutes later. The planet is bright but awash in bright twilight.
An hour after sundown, the thickening crescent moon, 33% illuminated, is over 20° above the south-southeast horizon and nearly 25° to the lower right of Saturn. The moon’s phase is half full, First Quarter, on November 20th at 4:50 a.m. CST, when the lunar orb is below the horizon in the western hemisphere.
The moon is about 10° to the lower right (west) of Saturn tomorrow evening and over 5° to the lower left (east) of the Ringed Wonder the next evening.
Saturn is slowly moving eastward against Aquarius’ distant stars. This evening it is 6.9° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. The planet and the star tightly fit into the same binocular field of view.
Farther eastward, Jupiter is over 20° above the east horizon. The planet continues to appear to move westward compared to Aries, the starry background. This evening the Jovian Giant is 11.3° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 12.8° above Menkar. The planet is noticeably east of an imaginary line between the two stars. Use a binocular to see the stars.
During the night, the moon, Saturn and Jupiter appear farther westward in the sky, from Earth’s rotation. The moon sets about five hours after sundown, followed by Saturn two hours later and around midnight. Jupiter is in the south before midnight and appears in the western sky when Venus rises tomorrow morning.
- 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.