2023, December 11: Spot Venus, Razor Thin Moon

2021, May 12: Venus, the crescent moon, and Mercury are in the west-northwest after sunset.
Photo Caption – 2021, May 12: Venus, the crescent moon, and Mercury are in the west-northwest after sunset.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 7:08 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:20 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:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, December 11: Venus is in the southeast before sunrise. The crescent moon is near the horizon.

Brilliant Venus is in the southeastern sky before sunrise.  It rises three hours, thirty-one minutes before the sun.  It is rising later each morning compared to daybreak. During the next week it loses ten minutes of rising time compared to sunrise.

By forty-five minutes before sunup, the planet is 25° above the horizon.  It is regularly the third brightest celestial object, after the sun and moon.  It is easily mistaken for an airplane or an unworldly body.

This morning the planet is 14.4° to the lower left of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, and 7.6° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi, meaning “the southern claw, that is about the brightness of the Big Dipper’s stars.

Venus continues to widen the gap to Spica and close on Zubenelgenubi.  It passes the second star in six mornings.

Chart Caption – 2023, December 11: Through a binocular look for the thin crescent moon, Dschubba, and Graffias.

Use a binocular to look for the razor-thin moon, 3% illuminated, less than 4° above the horizon.  With the binocular look for Dschubba, the Scorpion’s forehead or crown, and Graffias, meaning “the crab,” to the moon’s upper left. This observation is fairly easy with a binocular and an unobstructed horizon.

The moon reaches the New moon phase tomorrow at 5:32 p.m. CST.

Mars continues a slow climb into the eastern predawn sky, rising only thirty minutes before the sun.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, December 11: Mercury is in the southwestern sky during bright evening twilight.

Mercury is beginning to retreat into bright twilight and dimming as it overtakes our planet. During the next week, it loses over thirty minutes of setting time compared to sunset.  It passes between Earth and the sun on the 22nd.

At thirty minutes after sundown, the speedy planet is over 10° up in the southwest.  Thirty minutes later, it is over 6° above the horizon. At this level of twilight, a binocular is needed to see it.

Chart Caption – 2023, December 11: Saturn is in the southern sky during early evening hours.

An hour after sunset, Saturn is over 35° above the southern horizon.  The planet is slowly trekking eastward against Aquarius, 10.3° to the lower right of Lambda Aquarii (λ Aqr on the chart), 9.9° to the upper right of Skat, and 7.9° to the upper right of Deneb Algedi.

Chart Caption – 2023, December 11: Bright Jupiter is in the east-southeast after sundown.

At this hour bright Jupiter is nearly 40° above the east-southeast horizon.  It is brighter than all the starlike bodies in the sky this evening.  The planet is retrograding in front of Aries, 11.4° to the lower right of Hamal, the Ram’s brightest star, and 14.1° to the upper right of Menkar, the Sea Monster’s nostril.

Chart Caption – Jupiter’s retrograde motion against the starfield is demonstrated for 2023.

Jupiter’s retrograde, apparent westward motion against the distant starfield, ends later this month.

Saturn sets in the west-southwest before midnight, less than six hours after nightfall. Jupiter is south about an hour before Saturn sets.  The Jovian Giant sets early tomorrow morning before Venus rises.


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