June 1, 2022: Four bright planets are scattered across the eastern horizon before sunrise. Evening crescent moon is near the dwarf planet 1 Ceres.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:18 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:19 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Meteorologists use today as the beginning of the summer season – June, July, and August. The sun reaches its farthest point north on June 21 at 4:14 a.m. CDT. The sun reaches the celestial coordinates designated as the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere on the astronomical calendar.
The four morning planets continue to spread out along the eastern horizon before sunrise. Brilliant Venus is low in the east. It steps eastward in Aries.
At an hour before sunrise, Mars, about 20° up in the east-southeast and 1.8° to the lower left of bright Jupiter, is marching eastward in front of Pisces’ dim stars. The Red Planet passed the Jovian Giant three mornings ago and it is now moving away from the slower-moving world.
Saturn, 30° up in the south-southeast, is 69.2° to the upper right of Venus.
Less than two years ago, Jupiter passed Saturn in a very close conjunction. Since then, Jupiter – faster moving than the Ringed Wonder – is only 38.6° east of Saturn. It’ll take Jupiter until 2040 for it to move eastward and catch up to Saturn again.
In comparison, Venus passed Saturn two months ago and its nearly double Jupiter’s distance from Saturn.
Look for the star Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – nearly 10° above the southeast horizon, to the lower left of Saturn.
The crescent moon is in the western sky as night falls. It is 6% illuminated. An hour after sunset, the crescent is 12° up in the west-northwest at the feet of the Gemini Twins – Castor and Pollux.
Through a binocular the dwarf planet Ceres is visible, 2.0° to the lower right of the lunar crescent. The star Mebsuta, meaning “the outstretched paw of the lion,” is 1.5° to the moon’s lower left.
When Ceres was first spotted in 1801, it was thought to be a planet. Its location is between Mars in Jupiter, in a region known as the asteroid belt, where a myriad of small, rocky, and metallic objects revolve around the sun.
During the early 19th century other small objects were found and they were renamed asteroids. Today “minor planet” is the acceptable name.
There official name includes a number for the order of first observation. 1 Ceres, 2 Pallas, 3 Juno, and so on. Pluto is 134340 Pluto.
Pluto was reclassified as a “dwarf planet,” along with 1 Ceres in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union – the official body that names celestial objects – causing a stir among Pluto lovers, spawning a bumper sticker that reads “I miss Pluto.” This makes Ceres the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt.
The difference between a dwarf planet and a minor planet is their shapes. Dwarf planets are round, while minor planets have irregular shapes.
In 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft photographed 1 Ceres, finding a cratered, icy world.
These new designations confused astronomy enthusiasts. Several concepts and ideas are misnamed, but the IAU has not tackled renaming them, such the term as planetary nebula – initially thought to be planets in formation, but are exploding stars. The term “big bang” was used derisively by astronomer Fred Hoyle to criticize the idea of the start of the universe. “Black holes” may not be holes at all.
For the purpose of these articles, Pluto is considered a “classic planet,” and 1 Ceres is typically called an asteroid because of its location among the other asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Pluto was found during an era of astronomy when the search for new worlds was popular, and its identification was a remarkable feat.
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