by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:46 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:26 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, brilliant Venus stands nearly 30° above the southeast horizon. It easily outshines all other stars in the sky this morning as the single bright planet. The Morning Star steps eastward each morning against Virgo’s distant stars, 3.1° to the lower left of Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis, and 11.4° to the upper right of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star. In two mornings, Venus moves to within 10° of Spica, passing in a wide conjunction on the 29th.
Through a telescope, Venus shows a morning gibbous phase that is 63% illuminated.
Jupiter is not visible at this hour, but two hours earlier, the planet is nearly 15° up in the west, while Venus is less than 10° above the east-southeast horizon. The Venus-Jupiter gap is over 155°, leading up to their opposition December 10th.
Mars, a few days after its solar conjunction, only rises a few minutes before the sun. It becomes visible during the new year in the eastern sky before sunup.
Mercury is not easily visible in the western sky after nightfall. The planet is bright and nearly 7° above the southwest horizon at sundown. It sets nearly 50 minutes after the sun. The planet is easier to spot for southern hemisphere sky watchers.
An hour after sunset, the slightly-gibbous moon, 56% illuminated, is over 30° above the south-southeast horizon and 5.4° to the lower left of Saturn.
Saturn is slowly moving eastward in front of Aquarius, 6.9° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, meaning “the kid’s tail.” Use a binocular to see the planet and the star. They fit tightly into the same field of view.
The moon passes 3.1° below Saturn earlier today after 9 a.m. CST when the pair is below the horizon in the western hemisphere. The conjunction can be observed across a large region of the eastern hemisphere after local sunset.
Bright Jupiter is farther eastward, over 20° above the east horizon. With this moonlight, a binocular might be needed to see Hamal, 11.3° to the planet’s upper left, and Menkar, 12.9° below the planet.
During the night, the moon and Saturn appear farther westward, setting around midnight. Jupiter is south nearly six hours after sunset. It is in the west again tomorrow morning three hours before sunrise when Venus is low in the east.
- 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.