Watching the Skies: The summer solstice


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the most familiar astronomical events is happening this week, though it won’t necessarily be one that you can see with your eyes. 

The summer solstice is on Saturday at 5:44 PM. This marks the day with the longest amount of daylight for the Northern Hemisphere, and the day with the shortest amount of daylight for the Southern Hemisphere. Meteorological summer began on June 1 in the Northern Hemisphere, but astronomical summer will begin on the summer solstice.

The earth is tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees. When the North Pole is positioned where it points most directly toward the sun, it marks the summer solstice. It also marks the start of winter for the Southern Hemisphere. Our sunrises and sunsets are the farthest to the north at this time of the year.

Because of the long daylight hours this time of year, you’ll have to get outside extra early to do some stargazing before the sun comes up. If you’re an early riser and can be outside around 5 a.m., you’ll have a chance of seeing the moon pass by Venus.

Venus ruled the evening sky through the spring, then dipped beneath the horizon in early June. It is now back in our sight, but as an early morning star instead of an evening star.

If you look to the east and low on the horizon about an hour before sunrise, you might be able to spot Venus. Binoculars may help you pick it out if the first light of day is making it hard to spot. The Pleiades star cluster will be slightly above the bright planet.

The waning crescent moon will pass by Venus on June 18 and June 19. Look for the moon to be slightly above and to the right of Venus on the June 18, and almost directly below Venus on the June 19.

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