2023, February 24: Evening Moon, Planets

February 24, 2023: The evening moon, showing a burst of earth, appears above the converging planets Venus and Jupiter. Mars walks east in Taurus, high in the south.

Photo caption – August 27, 2016: The Venus-Jupiter conjunction

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, IL: Sunrise, 6:34 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:35 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location. Times are calculated from the US Naval Observatory MICA Computer program.

Transit time of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, when it is at the center of the planet in the southern hemisphere: 5:20 UT, 15:16 UT; February 25, 1:12. Convert the time to your time zone. In the US, subtract five hours for EST, six hours for CST, etc. Use a telescope to see the place. The hours are from Sky & Telescope magazine.

Daylight lasts more than eleven hours. Over the next three weeks, until the equinox, daylight gains an additional hour at around two to three minutes each day.

Here is today’s planetary forecast:

morning sky

Mercury and Saturn are technically morning planets, but they are immersed in the luminous twilight of the morning. The planet closest to the sun rises about 30 minutes before the sun, while the ringed wonder rises only 10 minutes before sunrise. Both are impossible to see by easy means as they are lost in the glare of the approaching dawn.

evening sky

Chart legend – 2023, February 24: Bright Venus and Jupiter are west-southwest after sunset.

After sunset, Venus continues to overtake Jupiter in the west-southwest direction. Forty-five minutes after sunset, the Evening Star is nearly 20° above the horizon.

Bright Jupiter is 5.2° upper left of Venus. Both are easily within the same binocular field of view.

Jupiter moves slowly east past a dark Pisces star field, swept away by the redness of evening twilight.

As it overtakes Jupiter, Venus advances eastward at about 1° each evening, faster than Jupiter’s eastward march.

Venus crosses Jupiter on March 1st in close conjunction. Encounters of these two planets occur approximately every two years, although this sometimes occurs when the planets are seen too close to the sun. This occurs at the May 23, 2024 conjunction. After next week’s meeting, the next visible Venus-Jupiter conjunction will be on August 12, 2025, before sunrise.

Chart legend – 2023, February 24: The crescent moon is about halfway up in the west-southwest near Hamal after sunset.

Tonight, the crescent moon, 27% illuminated, is halfway up in the west-southwest, above the evening brightest planets. It sits 10.0° lower left of Hamal – which means “adult Aries” – the brightest star in Aries.

2021, January 15: 2021, January 15: The thin waxing moon with a burst of earth, sunlight reflected from Earth’s features gently illuminates the lunar night.

This is another pretty evening crescent that has an earthy sheen to it, sunlight reflecting off Earth features, softly illuminating the lunar night. This effect also occurs tomorrow evening, but it quickly fades as the moon approaches the first quarter phase on the 27th.e.

Chart Legend – February 24, 2023: Mars marches eastward in Taurus, appearing between Elnath and Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau).

As the sky darkens further, Mars is in the south with Taurus. He walks east towards Elnath. Note that it passes between this star and Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau on the map) which is in the “V” of Taurus. Use binoculars to locate Epsilon, but the two stars are too far apart to be seen in a single binocular field.

Tonight, Mars is 10.9° upper left of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the pattern, and 6.1° lower right of Elnath.

Photo caption – This view of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet’s Great Red Spot and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in the turbulent atmosphere of Jupiter than that of previous years. The colors and their changes provide important clues to the processes taking place in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

At 7:12 p.m. CST, when Jupiter is 15° above the horizon in Chicago, the planet’s Great Red Spot is at the center of the Southern Hemisphere through a telescope. At this altitude – height above the horizon – Earth’s atmosphere blurs and makes the image of the planet dance through an eyepiece, like looking through a hot sidewalk on a sunny day. Jupiter’s moon Io is silhouetted against the clouds to the east of the planet.

Skywatchers farther west have a better opportunity to see the atmospheric feature and the large moon higher in the sky.

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