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2020, June: Solstice and Bright Morning Planets

Venus and the moon, June 29, 2020.

2020, June 19: The moon is 1.0° to the lower left Venus during early morning twilight.

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June 20: The flowers celebrate the beginning of summer.

Link to pdf of this article.

Link to the summary of the moon and planets in the morning sky.

June’s Planet Images

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

(Important Note:  These daily notes are written for Chicago, Illinois.  Observers should make any necessary adjustments for longitude differences, time zone corrections, and latitude differences.)

At the beginning of twilight (3:10 a.m. CDT), the Scorpius and Sagittarius section of the sky is at its full glory at the sky’s meridian. From the Scorpion’s classic pincers (Libra) in the southwest, and back to the heart (Antares) that leads us to the stinger that is at the imaginary celestial divider that separates the rising stars from the setting stars. Sagittarius is just east of the meridian. Its famous Teapot shape is in full view with the nebulae of the Milky Way above its spout. At this hour, bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast to the east of the Teapot. The splendor of the Milky Way is muted by the gibbous moon’s light that is low in the west in Virgo. Spica is in the west-southwest with Arcturus high in the west. The Big Dipper is low in the northwest with its Pointers reliably aiming northward. Leo leans toward the western horizon. Its Sickle is punctuated by regal Regulus. Facing east, we see that the Summer Triangle – Vega, Deneb, and Altair – is high in the sky. If it were not for the moon’s interfering light, we could trace the Milky Way from the south past Cygnus and Deneb to the north-northeast horizon with Perseus and Cassiopeia. Below the Summer Triangle, Pegasus and Andromeda come into view. If you’re impatient to see the Great Andromeda Spiral, then you can find it about 20° up in the northeast. You’ll need to fight the light of the bright moon. On June 1st, the sun’s arc carries it across the sky in a few minutes longer than 15 hours. Twilight totals about 4.25 hours that is divided between morning and evening. Darkness, the interval of time when the sky is completely dark, lasts only 4.75 hours. At the end of twilight (10:30 p.m. CDT), golden-orange Arcturus is over two-thirds of the way up in the sky at the meridian. On June 1st, the moon is above Spica, about 10° west of the meridian. Back in the eastern sky, Antares is low in the southeast. The Summer Triangle is above the horizon in the east, signaling that summer’s start is near. Along the horizon toward the north, Cassiopeia is low in the sky, east of the meridian. The three remaining stars of winter are in the northwest – Capella, Castor and Pollux. They disappear from the evening sky this month, but Capella is back in the sky before sunrise.

Three bright planets – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are scattered across the sky from southeast to south before sunrise. Jupiter and Saturn continue to retrograde as Jupiter slowly backs away from Saturn. Brilliant Venus begins its morning show before mid-month. Don’t miss the close grouping of Venus and the crescent moon on June 19. After sunset, Mercury is completing its evening apparition, where it appeared with Venus, the moon, and Elnath during May.

2020, June 8: The moon is 5.8° to the lower right of Jupiter. The Jupiter – Saturn gap is 5.0°.

2020, June 9: One hour before sunrise the gibbous moon is 4.8° to the lower left of Saturn.

2020, June 13: The Last Quarter moon is 4.9° to the lower left of Mars.

At the beginning of morning twilight at midmonth, bright Jupiter and Saturn are at the meridian. The Teapot of Sagittarius is to the lower right of the planets. Antares is near the horizon in the southwest. Looking along the western horizon, Arcturus is low in the west, and the Big Dipper is low in the northwest. Back at the meridian, the Summer Triangle is high in the south. Vega and Altair are west of the meridian, while that imaginary line cuts through Cygnus. Deneb is east, while Alberio is west of the meridian. The body of the Swan – from Deneb to Alberio – points toward the southwest. Farther east, Fomalhaut is low in the southeast, while brightening Mars is higher in the east-southeast. On June 15th, the crescent moon is low in the east. Farther northward along the horizon, Capella peaks above the north-northeast horizon, with Perseus and Cassiopeia standing above it. With the solstice nearing, daylight has increased about 10 minutes since June 1. Together daylight and twilight span over 19.5 hours. In the evening after twilight ends, Arcturus and Spica, west of the meridian, gleam from the south-southwest. Golden-orange Arcturus is high in the sky. The trapezium shape of Corvus is tilted toward the southwest horizon, to the lower right of Spica. Leo, with Regulus, is tilted toward the western horizon. The Big Dipper is high in the northwest above the Lion. East of the meridian, Antares is about an hour away from its high point. The classic pincers of the arachnid – Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali – are west of the meridian. The Summer Triangle reigns in the east. Try to locate it as the sky darkens – before the end of evening twilight – on solstice evening. It’s lower in the sky, but the large reach of the three stars, with their individual constellations, dominates the eastern sky. Farther northward along the horizon, Cassiopeia is east of the north cardinal point and low in the sky. If you have a good view toward the northwest, you may still catch Capella, Castor, and Pollux, although they are quite low.

As for the planets, four naked eye planets are now in the morning sky. The Bright Outer Planets – Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn – are scattered across the southern sky. Mars and Jupiter are separated by nearly 57° of ecliptic longitude. Brilliant Venus pops into the morning sky during the second half of the month. The moon joins Venus on June 19 for a close grouping. Mercury joins them next month.

2020, June 19: Before sunrise the old moon is 1.0° to the lower left of brilliant Venus.

2020, June 20: Venus is in Taurus and begins to move toward Aldebaran and the Hyades. Use optical assistance to locate the star during growing twilight.

2020, June 27: Four bright morning planets span 131° of ecliptic longitude, from Venus in the east-northeast to Jupiter in the southwest.

2020, June 30: Moon in the classic Scorpion’s pincers. Use a binocular or block the moon to see the dimmer stars.

At the end of the month when morning twilight begins, the bright outer planet duo – Jupiter and Saturn – is west of the meridian. Brightening Mars, the third planet visible at this hour, is in the east-southeast. Higher in the south, the Summer Triangle is west of the meridian. At this hour, Arcturus is low in the west-northwest. Find a spot with a clear horizon to see it. The Big Dipper is low in the north-northwest. Moving eastward along the horizon is Capella, low in the north-northeast. The Pleiades, low in the east-northeast, appears at about the same altitude as Capella. Daylight has lost only two minutes in the 10 days since the solstice. At the end of evening twilight, red-orange Antares is slightly east of the meridian, less than one-third of the way up in the sky. The bright gibbous moon seems to be captured in the classic pincers of Scorpius. It is a few degrees above Zubenelgenubi. You may need a binocular or shield your eyes from the moon’s brightness to see the dimmer pincer stars. Farther east, Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky. Golden-orange Arcturus appears high in the southwest while sapphire-white Vega is high in the east. Draw a line from Arcturus to Vega. About two-thirds of the way from the former to the latter is the Keystone of Hercules. The globular cluster M13 is found on the west side of this shape. Arcturus is high above Spica. Farther west, Leo is near the horizon. The Big Dipper is higher in the northwest, above the Lion. Back in the eastern sky, the Summer Triangle is about halfway up in the sky. Summer is here!

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