UPDATE: Mercury is visible with a binocular.
June 18, 2022: The moon joins the morning planet parade. Find it near Saturn before daybreak. After sunset, Arcturus is high in the southwestern sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:15 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:29 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Daylight is reaching its maximum, 15 hours, 14 minutes at Chicago’s latitude.
The moon begins to appear with the morning planet parade this morning. Step outside about an hour before sunrise. The bright lunar orb, 79% illuminated, is in the southern sky.
Saturn is 6.0° to the upper left of the moon. The Ringed Wonder is retrograding in eastern Capricornus, near the star Deneb Algedi.
Saturn and the moon and the background stars easily fit into the same binocular field of view.
Return to this region of the sky in a few mornings to note Saturn’s place compared to Deneb Algedi and Nashira. The planet’s slow western retrograde takes it past the two stars.
Hopping eastward, tomorrow morning the moon is between Saturn and Jupiter. The moon is closest to Jupiter in three mornings.
This morning, Jupiter is one-third of the way up in the east-southeast, 41.0° to the left of Saturn. Dimmer Mars, marching eastward and away from Jupiter, is 11.7° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant.
Jupiter is the second brightest “star” in the sky this morning. It is about 15 times brighter than Mars. Initially, the Red Planet may not be visible in comparison to Jupiter’s brightness. Take a careful look and note the dimmer “star,” to Jupiter’s lower left.
The morning’s brightest planet is Venus, It is 8.0° up in the east-northeast at this hour. The parade of four planets spans nearly 90°. This gap widens each morning as Venus continues to step eastward.
Look for the star Hamal, the brightest in Aries, over 20° to the upper right of the Morning Star. Additionally, bright Capella is in the north-northeast, over 35° to the left of Venus and slightly higher than the planet.
The Pleiades star cluster is over 8° to the upper left of Venus, outside the same binocular field. Can you find the star cluster without a binocular?
Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is about 4° above the east-northeastern horizon, nearly 10° to the lower left of Venus. The bright five planets span 100°. Mercury is still a challenge to see. At this twilight level, a binocular is needed to see it along with Mars and Saturn.
As evening twilight ends, about two hours after sunset, topaz Arcturus – meaning “the bear guard” – is high in the southwestern sky. It is the brightest star in Boötes, portrayed in celestial artwork as a shepherd or a character chasing the Great Bear.
The constellation resembles a traditional kite, with Arcturus at the bottom where the tail is attached.
Arcturus is the second brightest star visible from mid-northern latitudes. It makes its first evening appearance in the east during March and disappears from the evening sky in the west during early autumn.
The star is nearly 40 light years from the solar system. Its color indicates a temperature of 7,200°F. The star is considered a red giant, nearing the end of its life cycle, but not as large as Betelgeuse or Antares.
Arcturus is about 100 times brighter and nearly 15 times larger than our central star.
Corona Borealis – meaning “the northern crown” – is to the east of Boötes.
In a recent article, the crown and Hercules were featured as the two constellations between the stars Vega and Arcturus.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.