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2022, June 6:  Classic Nine Planet Parade Preview

Venus from Galileo (NASA photo)

Venus as viewed from the Galileo spacecraft (NASA photo)

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June 6, 2022:  The nine classic planets are in the sky simultaneously during late June.  Ambitious sky watchers should begin looking soon for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto before Mercury joins the morning parade.

Chart Caption – 2022, June 6: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the eastern sky before sunrise.

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by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:16 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:23 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.

The preview of the morning appearance for the nine classic planets is at the end of this article, following the daily sky watching forecast.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

Four bright planets are in the eastern sky this morning.  One hour before sunrise, bright Jupiter is likely the easiest to find.  It is nearly 25° above the east-southeast horizon.

Dimmer Mars is 4.6° to Jupiter’s lower left.  Initially, look carefully for the Red Planet. Jupiter is nearly 15 times brighter than Mars.  Once found, Mars stands out easily.

Brilliant Morning Star, over 7° up in the east-northeast is 35.7° to the lower left of Jupiter.  The gap between these planets widens each morning as Venus steps faster eastward than the other planets.

Saturn, seemingly standing alone, is over 30° up in the south-southeast, 39.3° to the upper right of Jupiter and 75.0° from Venus.

Mercury, still emerging from bright twilight, rises 45 minutes before the sun.

Look for Fomalhaut, above the southeast horizon and to the lower left of Saturn.  Capella is above the north-northeast horizon, at about the same altitude as Venus and over 45° to the left of the Morning Star.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, June 6: The moon seems to be in Leo’s belly in the western sky after night falls.

In the evening, the waxing crescent moon, 45% illuminated, seems to be in Leo’s belly.  The Lion’s brightest star, Regulus, is 10.7° to the lower right of the lunar orb, while Denebola is 14.1° to the upper left.

June Planet Parade Preview

The nine classic planets are visible before sunrise during the latter half of June 2022.  Five of the planets are visible to the unaided eye.  Three need optical assistance to see.

On June mornings before daybreak, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are lined up across an arc over 70° in the eastern sky.  Venus continues its eastward clip, seemingly leaving Mars and the other two bright planets in the dust.  Uranus, Neptune, and certainly, Pluto offer levels of challenge.  To see the last three planets, attempt to look for them over multiple mornings.  Pluto requires a large aperture – diameter of the lens or mirror – to see.

Mercury reached its inferior conjunction on May 21 and began a morning appearance that is hampered by the season’s long twilight at the mid-northern latitudes.  Reaching its greatest elongation on June 16 (23.2°), the speedy planet rises 65 minutes before sunup, just before Nautical Twilight, when the sun is 12° below the horizon. 

For six mornings (June 22-27), Mercury rises at least 73 minutes before sunrise.  The planet continues to brighten and it is easily visible to the naked eye.  Mercury, on these mornings, is very low in the east-northeast, but relatively easy to find with favorable observing conditions at the horizon.

Beginning around mid-month and extending toward month’s end, the five naked-eye planets and moon, along with Uranus and Neptune, are visible in the eastern and southern sky.  Add in the classic ninth planet, Pluto, the morning planets span nearly 130° along the ecliptic. Likely the best morning to see the naked-eye five is June 27 when the moon is near Mercury.

Photo Caption – 2020, July 19: Mercury appears 5.0° to the right of the crescent moon.

During the 2020 morning planet parade, bright planets extended from nearly horizon to horizon.  The image above shows the challenge to locate Mercury, but the moon pointed the way when it passed by.

Chart Caption – 2022, June: Venus moves through the same binocular field as Uranus during the morning planet parade.

Uranus is somewhat easier to locate than Neptune. In dark locations, the planet can be found without optical help.  During this morning parade, the planet rises during morning twilight and optical assistance is needed.  It is low in the east-northeast, among the stars of Aries.  Pi Arietis (π Ari on the chart) is the brightest star in the region.

In a binocular, Uranus appears as an aquamarine star.  Venus moves through the same binocular field with the distant planet from June 9 to June 14.  The dates can be extended by moving Uranus off center in the field of view.  The planet’s globe can be seen when telescopic magnifications reach over 100x.

Chart Caption – 2022, June: Neptune can be seen through a binocular in front of the stars of Pisces.

Neptune nears the point where its retrograde begins during this parade.  The planet is over 10° to the upper right of Jupiter, among the stars of Pisces.  On the chart, the constellation’s distant stars are labeled with numbers and the letters “Psc,” indicating they are part of Pisces. On June 20, the moon may fit into the same field of view as Neptune, but the moon’s phase is quite bright, 58% illuminated.

Chart Caption – 2022, June: Neptune’s path can be tracked through a telescope as it slows to begin its retrograde motion.

Through a telescopic eyepiece, the Neptune’s movement can be tracked from morning to morning.  It is near the star cataloged HIP 117112, from a catalog of stellar data collected by the Hipparcos satellite.  It’ll take magnification over 100x to attempt to see the globe of the planet.

For sky watchers with a telescope having appropriate capabilities and sufficiently dark skies, start looking for Pluto as soon as possible without the interference of a bright moon.  At the beginning of morning twilight, this classic ninth planet is nearly 25° up in the southern sky in eastern Sagittarius, 0.2° to the upper left of a star cataloged as HIP 98575.

 Pluto’s identification is not easy and it takes several mornings to watch it move compared to the starry background.  A finder chart is available in the Observer’s Handbook, 2022.

The five naked eye planets are easy to observe, making this string of celestial wonders and interesting view in June’s morning skies.  More ambitious observers can look for Uranus, Neptune, and, possibly Pluto – the ninth classic planet.

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