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2022, June 30: Planet Racetrack, Green Star

Crescent Moon, Venus, and Aldebaran, July 17, 2020

2020, July 17: The crescent moon, Brilliant Venus, and Aldebaran shine from the eastern during early morning twilight.

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June 30, 2022: The gap between the four morning planets continues to widen.  In the evening sky a green star may lie among the stars of Scorpius that is in the south as twilight ends.

Chart Caption – 2022, June 30: One hour before sunrise, Venus nears a conjunction with Aldebaran. The Pleiades are above the planet.

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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.

Morning Sky

SUMMARY OF PLANETS IN 2022 MORNING SKY

With Mercury’s departure from the morning sky, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn continue their treks across the sky.  Since its first appearance before sunrise, Venus passed Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, quickly stepping eastward.  Mars followed Venus with its conjunctions of the distant worlds.  Jupiter passed Saturn in 2020.

The gap from Venus to Saturn widens each morning. Venus steps eastward and Saturn slowly retrogrades in eastern Capricornus. The space is over 104°.  When the gap reaches 180° on August 28, Venus rises as Saturn sets, leaving a three-planet parade in the morning sky.

To demonstrate the eastward speed of these four planets, Venus passes Aldebaran tomorrow morning. The star is making its first appearance before sunrise, 4.3° to the lower right of the Morning Star.  In comparison, Mars reaches the star on September 7.

Jupiter and Saturn move slowly compared to Venus and Mars.  Jupiter has a conjunction with Aldebaran on July 10, 2024 – in two years!  Saturn’s conjunction with the star occurs May 16, 2031, although this occurs in bright evening twilight.  This is followed by a conjunction on June 25, 2060 as Aldebaran is making its first morning appearance before sunrise.  Those planets move around the sun slowly!  Venus passes Saturn 10 times before the Ringed Wonder passes Aldebaran in 2031

This morning Venus is about 8° up in the east-northeast, about an hour before sunrise.  Aldebaran is 4.3° to the lower right of the Morning Star. The Pleiades star cluster is above Venus.

Chart Caption – 2022, June 30: Bright Jupiter and Mars are in the southeastern sky before daybreak.

Bright Jupiter, nearly 40° up in the southeast, is over 60° to the upper right of Venus.  Dimmer Mars continues its eastward march away from Jupiter after their conjunction a month ago.  This morning, the gap is 19.1° to the lower left of the Jovian Giant.

Chart Caption – 2022, June 30: Saturn is above the southern horizon during morning twilight.

Saturn is seemingly standing alone in a relatively dim starfield.  Find it about 30° up in the south.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2022, June 30: The moon is near Pollux after sundown.

At forty-five minutes after sunset, the thin crescent moon, 3% illuminated, is about 8° up in the west-northwest.  At this level of twilight, use a binocular to initially find the crescent.  The star Pollux is 7.2° to the lower right of the moon.  Both barely fit into the same binocular field.  Castor is 4.5° to the upper right of Pollux.

Chart Caption – 2022, June 30: Scorpius is in the south after twilight ends.

As the sky darkens further, look for Scorpius in the south.  This constellation is one of a few that resembles its namesake – a scorpion.

Bright red-orange Antares is over 20° up in the south.  This star is sometimes shown as the Scorpion’s heart on celestial artwork. The name means “the rival of Mars.”  About every two years, Mars moves through the region north of Antares. Mars passes by again on December 8, 2023, and on November 18, 2025, but both conjunctions are too close to the sun for easy observing.  On October 29, 2027, Mars and Antares are visible low in the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset.  Their separation is 3.7°.

Antares is a very large star.  It is categorized as a red supergiant.  If the sun were replaced with this star, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars would be inside it. 

Nearby Al Niyat and Tau Scorpii (τ Sco on the chart) are arteries leading from Antares.

Globular clusters are inherently beautiful objects, but the subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, Messier 3, is commonly acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful of them all. (NASA/ESA Photo)

A globular star cluster, cataloged as Messier 4 (M4 on the chart) is in the same region as Antares.  The cluster contains thousands of stars and is over 7,000 light years away, making it one of the closest clusters of this type to our solar system.

Mapping globular clusters determined the direction and the distance of the Milky Way’s center.  Recent observations have revealed what looks like a black hole.

Messier 4 is easily spotted with a binocular.  It is in the same field of view as Antares, a little over 1° to the right of the star.  The cluster looks like an oversize, fuzzy star.  A small telescope reveals a mass of stars.

Graffias – “meaning the crab” – is to the upper right of Antares.  Apparently, the early sky watchers and naturalists did not know the difference between a crab and a scorpion or thought they were manifestations of the same thing.

The star, also known as Beta Scorpii, is a double star, two stars that are gravitationally bound together.  For some observers, the second, fainter star looks greenish – a rare stellar sighting.

Dschubba, below Graffias, is the Scorpion’s forehead or crown.

From Dschubba, the body is drawn through the arteries and the heart downward toward the horizon.  The body abruptly curves upward ending at two stars – Shaula,  meaning “the cocked-up part of the scorpion’s tail,” and Lesath, “the scorpion’s sting.”

During the next few evenings, before the moon brightens too much, take a look for the Scorpion crawling across the southern horizon.

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