by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:50 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:24 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 stands nearly 30° above the southeast horizon at one hour before sunrise. The planet outshines all other stars in the sky this morning. It is routinely the third brightest celestial object in the sky, after the sun and moon.
This morning the planet continues to approach Spica, 8.3° to its lower left. Venus passes in a wide conjunction in six mornings.
The Morning Star rises twelve minutes short of four hours before sunrise. It loses a minute of rising time compared to daybreak every few days. By year’s end, Venus rises less than three hours before sunup.
On clear mornings, follow the brilliant planet higher into the sky as the approaching sunrise brightens the eastern sky.
Earlier this morning, an hour after Venus rises, it is less than 10° up in the east-southeast. Jupiter is about the same altitude – height above the horizon – in the west. The Venus-Jupiter gap is nearly 160°. They are 180° apart December 7th.
Mars rises a few minutes before the sun and it is not visible.
Mercury continues toward its largest separation from the sun, known as the greatest elongation, December 4th. On that evening it is about 5° up in the southwest at forty-five minutes after sundown. At sunset tonight, it is over 7° above the horizon, setting fifty-five minutes after the sun.
The bright gibbous moon, 86% illuminated, is in the east-southeast after nightfall. It is nearly 20° to the upper right of bright Jupiter. The moon is about 5° from the planet tomorrow evening.
Jupiter is retrograding in front of Aries, 11.3° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 13.1° above Menkar, Cetus’ nostril. Use a binocular to see the stars in this moonlight. They are too far from the planet to fit into the same binocular field with it.
As the planet retrogrades, it is noticeably west of an imaginary line from Hamal to Menkar. The retrograde effect is an illusion from our faster-moving planet moving between Jupiter and the sun. The Jovian Giant retrogrades until year’s end.
Saturn, not as bright as Jupiter, is over 35° up in the south. It is moving eastward in front of Aquarius’ dim stars that are washed out by the bright moonlight. The Ringed Wonder is 7.0° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. The planet and the star tightly fit into the same binocular field of view.
During the night, from Earth’s rotation, Saturn, Jupiter, and the moon appear farther westward. Saturn sets in the west-southwest over seven hours after sunset, and before midnight. The moon is south about four hours after sunset, setting three hours before daybreak tomorrow. Jupiter is about an hour behind the moon, appearing in the west when Venus is rising into the eastern sky.
- 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.