Best of 2023: Night sky events
It’s the best of 2023! Mark your calendars for the best stargazing events for the upcoming year. From planetary pairings to a partial solar eclipse, there’s much to look forward to.
For a precise view from your location, visit the free online planetarium
Stellarium. Enter your location and the date of the event to see a replica of the sky where you live.
Available now! 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year. Makes a great gift! January 22: Venus will meet Saturn
In January 2023, the brightest planet Venus will become easier to spot as it climbs slightly higher in the twilight sky each evening. Meanwhile, Saturn will start January 2023 high in the twilight sky. But it’ll drop closer to the horizon as January proceeds. And – on January 22, 2023 – Venus and Saturn will appear to brush past each other on the sky’s dome. The pair will be less than half a degree apart. That’s less than a full moon diameter apart! On the following night, the pair will be joined by a thin young crescent moon for a remarkable sight. And there are more planetary pairings ahead in 2023! Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.
If you have binoculars, turn them on Saturn and much-brighter Venus around January 22 and 23. They’ll enhance your view! Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. January 30-31: The moon will cover Mars
Fresh from the lunar occultation of Mars in December 2022, the pair will do it again on January 30, 2023. As seen from North America, Mars will lie off the waxing gibbous moon’s dark limb that evening. As the night proceeds, the moon will move closer to Mars, covering it as viewed from locations in the southern U.S. and extending farther south. Check the map at In-the-Sky to see if the event is visible where you live. For those outside the occultation viewing area, you’ll get to see a very close pairing of the moon and the red planet. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. March 1: Venus will meet Jupiter
On and around March 1, 2023, you can glimpse as the sky’s 2 brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, sliding past each other on the dome of the sky. As seen from North America, their closest pairing is shortly after sunset on March 1. They’ll pass approximately a full moon’s width, or half a degree, apart. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. April 21 and 22: Venus and friends
In April 2023, bright Venus will shine among some of the favorite targets of stargazers around the world. The Pleiades star cluster – aka the 7 Sisters – is a dipper-shaped gem in Taurus the Bull. And the larger, V-shaped Hyades star cluster – with its bright red foreground star, Aldebaran – is popular as well. Brilliant Venus will guide you to them. Add to all this a waxing crescent moon glowing with earthshine on April 21 and 22, 2023, for an attractive celestial scene. Look shortly after sunset for these treasures. What a great sight to conclude your day! Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. June 1 and 2: The planets and the bees
The Beehive star cluster in Cancer the Crab gets a visit from 2 planets in June 2023. Reddish Mars will visit first, on June 1 and 2. Aim your binoculars at the red planet to see the background sparkle of the Beehive. Bright Venus will outshine the stars as it passes through on June 12 and 13. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.
Binoculars will help reveal the Beehive cluster’s many stars, with bright Mars shining off to one side on June 1 and 2, 2023. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.
Brilliant Venus – our sky’s brightest planet – will take on the roll of queen bee when it passes through the Beehive star cluster on June 12 and 13, 2023. Look west shortly after darkness falls for this interesting and beautiful sight. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.
As with Mars 10 days earlier in June 2023, binoculars will help show you the Beehive around June 12 and 13, 2023, with Venus off to one side. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. June 21: Moon, Venus and Mars on the solstice
June 21 is a notable date because it marks the June solstice, the 1st day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere and 1st day of winter for the Southern Hemisphere. 2023’s solstice will feature the waxing crescent moon glowing next to brilliant Venus with the much, much dimmer Mars nearby. Look low in the west shortly after sunset for this scene in the darkening twilight. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. July 19, 20 and 21: A fully packed celestial scene
On the evenings of July 19, 20 and 21, 2023, the western sky will be full of celestial treats. Venus will command the scene, shining brightly low in the west. Twinkling nearby will be much-dimmer Regulus, brightest star in Leo the Lion and considered the Heart of the Lion. Farther from the horizon you’ll find red Mars, now faded from its former glory in December 2022. By July 2023, Mars will be bright, still, but not quite as bright as Regulus. If your sky is very clear, you can also spot Mercury in the twilight, hugging the horizon near where the sun disappeared, on these evenings. Moving through this scene each night is the waxing crescent moon. Watch each evening as the moon rises higher, grows a touch wider and creates new configurations with the background stars and planets. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. August 24: The moon will cover Antares
On August 24, 2023, the moon not only will pass in front of (or occult) planets, as it did with Mars on January 30, but it will also cover stars. On the evening of August 24, the moon, one day past first quarter, will cover Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius the Scorpion. Viewers in the United States east of Denver, west of New York, and north of central Florida can view this occultation in the southwestern evening sky. Check out the map on this page from In-the-Sky to find out if the event is visible where you live. Since the timing of this event will be location-dependent, begin viewing shortly after sunset to see the red star next to the moon’s dark edge. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky. October 14: An unforgettable partial solar eclipse
The sun, moon and Earth will almost perfectly align on October 14. This will result in a partial solar eclipse across the United States. The eclipse will be visible along a band running from southern Oregon, through Nevada and the Four Corners region, then into west and south Texas, and finally into the Gulf of Mexico. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes across the interior of the sun’s face forming a blinding ring, the “Ring of Fire.” Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.
As with all solar eclipses, view it safely only through proper solar filters. Otherwise, permanent eye damage will result. Oct 10, Nov 9 and Dec 9: Crescent moon meets Venus
Some of the most eye-catching sky sights are when the moon glows near the brightest planet, Venus. Three such occasions will occur in fall’s morning sky. As dawn brightens on October 10, November 9 and December 9, look toward the eastern horizon for a dramatic scene. Venus will be unmistakable next to the waning crescent moon. What a sublime sight to start your day! Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.
Bottom line: Best of 2023 night sky scenes that you won’t want to miss, chosen for you by the editors of EarthSky. Mark your calendars now!
John Jardine Goss
About the Author:
“I can sometimes see the moon in the daytime” was a cosmic revelation that John Jardine Goss first discovered through personal observations when he was 6 years old. It shook his young concept of the universe and launched his interest in astronomy and stargazing, a fascination he still holds today. John is past president of the Astronomical League, the largest U.S. federation of astronomical societies, with over 20,000 members. He's earned the title of Master Observer and has authored the celestial observing guides Exploring the Starry Realm and Carpe Lunam. John also writes a monthly stargazing column, Roanoke Skies, for the Roanoke Times, and a bimonthly column, Skywatch, for Blue Ridge Country magazine. He has contributed to Sky and Telescope magazine, the IDA Nightscape, the Astronomical League’s Reflector magazine, and the RASC Observer’s Handbook.