by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:55 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:22 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:
At three hours before daybreak, the bright moon is about halfway up in the western sky. Venus and Jupiter are low, near their respective horizons. The gap between them continues to widen as Venus steps quickly eastward and Jupiter slowly retrogrades, appears to move westward compared to the starry background. On December 10th, Jupiter sets when Venus rises. After this date, the Jovian Giant sets before Venus appears above the horizon. This morning the Venus-Jupiter gap is over 165°.
By an hour before daybreak, the bright moon, 99% illuminated, is over 20° above the west-northwest horizon, it is 4.3° below Elnath, Taurus’ northern horn. The moon appears to be skewered by the Bull’s horn, clearly not a good place. Look for the moon this evening.
Farther eastward, Venus is nearly 30° up in the southeast. Tomorrow, it passes Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, in a wide conjunction. This morning it is 4.4° to the upper left of the star.
The planet is headed toward Zubenelgenubi, one of the Scorpion’s claws, with a conjunction occurring December 17th. This morning Venus is over 20° to the upper right of the star that is about 7° above the horizon.
Mars, appearing to move slowly against the celestial backdrop, rises less than 20 minutes before the sun and is not visible from the bright light.
For northern hemisphere skywatchers, Mercury seems to struggle to make an appearance in the southwest after nightfall. At sunset, it is nearly 10° above the southwest horizon. Forty-five minutes later, it is only a few degrees above the horizon. Prospects improve somewhat during the next week.
At one hour after sundown, Saturn is over 35° up in the south. It continues a slow eastward slog against Aquarius, but the bright moon that is just above the east-northeast horizon washes out the dimmer stars. The planet is 7.2° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi. Both may fit tightly into a binocular field of view, but these views are limited with Saturn’s eastward movement.
Farther eastward, Jupiter stands nearly 30° above the eastern horizon. It is retrograding in front of Aries, 11.3° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 13.4° above Menkar. Use a binocular to spot the stars in this moonlight.
During the night, Jupiter and Saturn appear farther westward and the moon is higher in the eastern sky. By three hours after sundown, Saturn is in the southwest and Jupiter is in the southeast. The bright moon, 96% illuminated, is 20° up in the east-northeast. Tonight, it is to the left of the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri. In celestial artwork, this is a precarious place.
Saturn in the west-southwest sets before midnight. Jupiter is low in the west when Venus rises nearly four hours before daybreak.
Tomorrow morning the bright moon is in the western 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.