Minnesota StarWatch: The Summer Triangle rises in the southeast

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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By Deane Morrison 

In July, Venus ends its long run as an evening star by plummeting into the sunset, a spectacular fall that begins its next trip between Earth and the sun.  

But it won’t be gone for long. Our brilliant sister planet will reappear in the morning sky in the last days of August. 

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At nightfall the Summer Triangle of bright stars rides high in the east to southeast. Its brightest star is Vega, in Lyra, the lyre. The lyre, often associated with the mythical Greek musician Orpheus, is represented by a parallelogram of stars below Vega. The next brightest Triangle star is Altair, in Aquila, the eagle. The third Triangle star—Deneb—forms the tail of Cygnus, the swan, and the “head” of the Northern Cross. Grab your binoculars and explore these stars and the whole Triangle area.

In the predawn sky, Saturn and Jupiter appear low in the southeast and east, respectively, on July 1. As the month goes by, both planets drift higher and westward. Low in the northeast is the brilliant star Capella, in Auriga, the charioteer. 

The evening of the 2nd, a super moon—a full moon that’s near the closest point to Earth in a lunar orbit—rises in the aptly named Teapot of Sagittarius. That night the moon follows a low trajectory across the night sky and sets in the west half an hour before sunrise on the 3rd, shortly before reaching perfect fullness. The waning moon visits Saturn on the 7th and Jupiter on the 11th and 12th. On the 14th and 15th, an old moon makes a pretty sight with Jupiter, Capella, and the Pleiades star cluster. The star below the Pleiades will be Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the bull.

On July 6 Earth reaches aphelion, the farthest point from the sun in its orbit. At that moment our planet will be 94.5 million miles from its parent star.

The University of Minnesota offers public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. For more information, see:

• Duluth, Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium: www.d.umn.edu/planet

• Twin Cities, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics: www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight

• Check out astronomy programs, free telescope events, and planetarium shows at the

• University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum: www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/astronomy

• Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy at: http://www.astro.umn.edu