June 15, 2022: The morning moon is in front of the Teapot. The morning planet parade continues in the eastern sky before sunrise. As night falls, the Summer Triangle signals that the summer season is arriving north of the equator.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:28 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Daylight inches toward its maximum today, 15 hours, 13 minutes. The sun is still at its earliest sunrise through June 19.
The bright moon is above the south-southwest horizon this morning at about an hour before sunrise. While its brightness overwhelms the dimmer stars in the sky, the lunar orb appears in front of the stars of Sagittarius, in a region known as the Teapot. A binocular helps in locating the pattern.
The four-planet parade continues from the east-northeast to the south-southeast. Currently four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – one hour before sunrise.
Begin with Morning Star Venus, low in the east-northeast. It may be behind a tree or other structure. Find a spot to locate a clear horizon in that direction. It is needed to look for Mercury 15 minutes later.
Bright Jupiter is over 45° to the upper right of Venus and 10.0° to the upper right of dimmer Mars. Venus and Mars move eastward faster than Jupiter. Venus is quicker than Mars and continues to open a widening gap with Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
Saturn, over 30° above the south-southeast horizon, is retrograding, moving westward compared to the starry background, in eastern Capricornus, near the star Deneb Algedi.
At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury is low in the east-northeast, nearly 11° to the lower left of Venus. The planet is still only visible through a binocular. It is brightening each morning and is soon visible without the optical assist.
The moon begins hopping past the planets in three mornings, helping us find Mercury on June 27.
As night falls, three bright stars shine from the eastern sky. Their place during mid-June evenings indicates that the summer season is here in the northern hemisphere.
Known as the Summer Triangle, Vega, Altair, and Deneb, belong to their own constellations.
Vega – meaning “the falling eagle – is about halfway up in the sky in the east-northeast. It is the sapphire gem on Lyra the Harp, the third brightest star visible from the mid-northern latitudes.
At a distance of 25 light years, Vega shines with an intensity of 30 suns. While brighter than our central star its brightness in our sky is from its relative closeness.
Altair – meaning “the flying eagle” – is nearly 10° above the eastern horizon and the brightest star in Aquila the Eagle. Its distance is about 17 light years away and ranks as the eighth brightest star seen from northern latitudes. It shines with the intensity of about 10 suns.
The most unusual star in this triangle is Deneb – meaning “the hen’s tail.” Cygnus the Swan is flying southward along the eastern horizon. It is about 25° up in the northeast.
Deneb is the 20th brightest star seen from Earth and the 14th seen from the mid-northern latitudes. This star shines with the intensity of nearly 40,000 suns at a distance of about 1,400 light years. It rivals Rigel in Orion in actual brightness, but Orion’s knee is about 500 light years closer.
Because it is a blue-white star, hotter than our sun, its size is not enormous like that of Betelgeuse or Antares. Intrinsically bright blue stars are not as large as bright red stars, although these unusually luminous stars can become red supergiant stars when they fuse their core hydrogen into helium.
During the next few evenings look for the Summer Triangle in the eastern sky after sundown, signaling that the summer season has arrived.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.