by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:57 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:21 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times. Times are calculated by the US Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
As the month ends, daylight is nine hours, twenty-five minutes long at Chicago’s latitude. During November daylight shrunk nearly an hour. There’s still several minutes to lose before the winter solstice.
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 above the southeast horizon. Yesterday, the planet passed Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, in a wide conjunction. This morning the separation is slightly larger, 4.3°. Venus continues to step eastward, widening the gap to the distant star. The Morning Star is within 10° through December 7th.
As Venus heads eastward, it is moving toward Zubenelgenubi, one of the Scorpion’s claws, over 20° to the planet’s lower left and nearly 10° above the east-southeast horizon. Venus passes the star December 17th.
Farther westward, the bright gibbous moon, 90% illuminated, is halfway up in the west. It is in front of Gemini, 7.7° to the lower left of Castor and 8.8° to the lower right of Pollux.
Earlier this morning, about three hours before sunrise, Venus is low in the east-southeast and Jupiter is low in the west. The planets are approaching their planet-to-planet opposition December 10th when Venus rises as Jupiter sets. This is the last day they can be seen together during the night for the balance of Venus’ morning appearance that concludes later next year. This gap is approaching 170° this morning.
Venus and Jupiter are bright enough to be seen at the horizon through the haze that blurs and dims celestial objects. Most celestial bodies are too dim to shine through the thick air.
During November Venus moved 32.4° east while Jupiter retrograded 3.6° to widen the separation between the two planets leading up to the impending opposition.
Mars is on a slow climb into the morning sky. Rising fifteen minutes before sunrise, the Red Planet is immersed in bright sunlight.
Mercury is in the southwest after sunset. At sundown, it is nearly 10° above the southwest horizon. Thirty minutes later, use a binocular to find the planet about 5° up.
At one hour after sundown, Saturn is over 35° up in the south. Not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, the planet is brighter than most of the stars in the sky tonight. It is slowly moving eastward in front of Aquarius’ dim stars. The planet is 7.3° to the upper left of Deneb Algedi, Capricornus’ tail. The pair is getting too far apart to fit into the same binocular field of view. Tonight, the fit is tight.
The Ringed Wonder is moving toward Skat, the Aquarian’s leg, 10.3° to the planet’s lower left and Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart), 10.8° to the upper left. They are too far from the planet to fit into the same binocular field.
Look for Fomalhaut, the mouth of the Southern Fish, nearly 20° to Saturn’s lower left.
At this hour, bright Jupiter is farther eastward, nearly 30° above the east horizon. It is retrograding, appearing to move westward compared to Aries, 11.3° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 13.5° above Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril.
Use a binocular to look at the Pleiades star cluster and the Hyades cluster to the lower left of Jupiter.
Jupiter’s illusion of retrograde continues through December. Earth passed between the planet and the sun earlier this month, known as opposition.
The gibbous moon rises about three hours after sunset. Two hours later, the lunar orb, 85% illuminated, is over 20° up in the east-northeast. It is 2.1° to the lower right of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins.
During the night, the sky seems to move toward the western horizon. Saturn sets in the west-southwest before midnight, while Jupiter is low in the western sky when Venus rises, nearly four hours before sunrise. The moon is high in the western sky 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.