by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:48 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:25 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:
Brilliant Venus rises nearly four hours before sunrise. The interval is slowly decreasing by a minute every two days. An hour after the planet rises, it is less than 10° above the east-southeast horizon and Jupiter is slightly higher in the west. The gap between the two planets is nearing 160°. On December 10th, it is 180°. Jupiter sets in the west as Venus rises. This is a planet-to-planet opposition.
Jupiter returns to the morning sky during 2024. On May 24th, it has a very close conjunction with Venus in bright sunlight. They are not together again until autumn 2024. This occurs with another Venus-Jupiter opposition November 4, 2024. After that date they appear in the sky together at the same time. Venus is in the western sky and Jupiter is rising in the east-northeast. The next easily-visible Venus-Jupiter conjunction occurs before sunrise in the eastern sky August 12, 2025.
This morning an hour before daybreak, the Morning Star stands nearly 30° above the horizon. It is 9.3° to the upper right of Spica and 5.3° to the lower left of Porrima, also known as Gamma Virginis.
Venus passes Spica in a wide conjunction (4.2°) in a week. Watch the gap close each morning. After the conjunction, as Venus continues to step eastward, it is within 10° of Virgo’s brightest star until December 7th.
Mars is very slowly moving into the eastern morning sky. It is not visible until the new year.
Mercury is moving toward its greatest elongation December 4th. This evening it is over 7° above the southwest horizon at nightfall, setting fifty minutes after the sun. On the best evenings it is about 5° above the horizon at forty-five minutes after sundown. In the southern hemisphere, the planet has a favorable placement in the southwestern sky.
An hour after sundown, the waxing gibbous moon, 78% illuminated, is nearly 35° above the southeast horizon, about midway from Saturn to Jupiter. The phase continues to grow each evening through the Full moon phase in five nights.
Saturn, over 30° to the moon’s right, is moving eastward in front of Aquarius, although the constellation is mostly washed out by the bright moonlight. The planet is 7.0° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. Both fit tightly into a binocular’s field of view.
Look for Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish, about 20° to the lower left of the moon. Farther eastward above the horizon and over 15° below the moon is Deneb Kaitos, the Sea Monster’s tail. The creature’s nostril, Menkar, is to the lower right of Jupiter.
The Jovian Giant is nearly 25° up in the east, over 30° to the lower left of the moon, and 13.0° above Menkar. The planet is retrograding in front of Aries, 11.3° to the lower right of Hamal, the constellation’s brightest star.
During the night, the sky seems to spin westward. Saturn sets in the west-southwest before midnight about seven hours after nightfall. The moon is southward nearly four hours after sundown, setting over four hours before sunrise. Jupiter is south an hour before Saturn sets and visible in the western sky as Venus rises. The solar system’s largest planet sets nearly two hours before daybreak.
- 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.