June 29, 2022: Four bright planets remain in the morning sky before daybreak. Around midnight, the black hole at the galaxy’s center is low in the south.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:19 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:30 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The moon reached the New moon phase overnight. Find a thin crescent low in the west-northwest tomorrow evening after sundown.
Mercury’s last call is this morning. The planet is retreating into brighter twilight and becoming more difficult to see with the other four morning planets.
Start looking at least an hour before daybreak to see the four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – along an imaginary arc from the east-northeast horizon to about one third of the way up in the south.
To find Venus, locate a clear horizon, low in the east-northeast. A hilltop or elevated structure should provide a look over local obstructions.
Bright Jupiter is nearly 40° up in the southeast. Dimmer Mars is 18.5° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant. The Red Planet is about one-third of the way from Jupiter to Venus. Lone Saturn, slightly dimmer than Mars, is about 30° above the southern horizon.
To find Mars and Saturn as the sky brightens during the next several minutes, reference their places in the sky compared to a tree branch or roof top. They will be easier to find later when Mercury is visible by using the terrestrial landmarks. Venus and Jupiter are relatively easy to find, when Mercury becomes visible.
At forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury is about 4° above the east-northeast horizon, 11.7° to the lower left of Venus. It’s only about 4° above the horizon and 10.1° to the lower left of Aldebaran that is making its first morning appearance. Use a binocular to find Mercury and the star. Then look for the other four planets using the reference points for Mars and Saturn.
We say “goodbye” to Mercury in this rare parade of bright planets that are visible in order from the sun until 2100. Mercury passes its superior conjunction on July 16. It swings into the evening sky for a very unfavorable appearance in the western sky.
The center of the galaxy is visible low in the south around midnight. A suspected black hole – a very massive object with gravity so strong that light cannot escape – has been suspected to supply the gravity to hold the Milky Way galaxy together. This one is thought to contain the matter of four million suns.
The black hole is hiding behind the stars, nebulae, and dust clouds in the region. We cannot see through the foreground celestial wonders with conventional optical telescopes, in the same way we cannot see through clouds in the atmosphere. There’s just too much stuff in the way.
The center of the galaxy is behind the stars of Sagittarius. The main part of the constellation resembles a teapot and has that moniker. The black hole is between the Teapot and the main stars of Scorpius, with its bright star Antares.
The Milky Way’s black hole has been long suspected because of observations that see stars moving very quickly in that region of space, some 27,000 light years away. This black hole has the name Sgr A* (“Sadge-ay-star”); the letters Sgr are the abbreviation for Sagittarius.
Recently, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team released a colorized radio map of the suspected black hole. Radio waves and other forms of energy pass through the haze of the intervening stars and dusty debris to reach our solar system.
Radio telescopes are much larger than optical telescopes, but they cannot see the same details that can be seen on celestial objects like that of the neighborhood sky watcher’s backyard scope. To see the sky in considerable detail, radio telescopes are connected across the globe to reveal the detail of a single radio telescope that is the size of Earth. In this case, EHT combined the data from eight radio telescopes from across the globe, as the individual radio telescopes collected radio waves for many hours.
The EHT press release states that the group of 300 researchers worked for five years to overcome technical issues and to analyze the data with super computers.
The image shows a dark center with a yellow-orange ring around it. The dark center is the black hole with a disk of hot debris around it. The brighter spots indicate regions that release more energy and could be interpreted as hotter regions on the disk.
This radio image along with an earlier one made of one on the galaxy Messier 87 look similar, although M87’s black hole is more massive.
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