Seven Sisters And Two Goddesses Grace The Dawn

This will be the scene Tuesday morning (June 20) on the last morning of spring. The summer solstice begins hours later at 11:24 p.m. CDT (4:24 UT June 21). To see the moon, Venus and Pleiades at their best, find a place with a wide open view to the east. Created with Stellarium

It’s an all female crew tomorrow at dawn. Look low in the northeastern sky starting about an hour and a half before sunrise and the first thing you’ll notice is the lunar crescent filled out with ample earthshine. To its left will shine radiant Venus, the brightest planet in the sky. Both Venus and the moon or Luna have deep mythological roots. Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, while Luna was the female complement of the sun. She rode a chariot wearing a crescent-shaped crown on her head.

The seven Pleiades sisters along with mom and dad (Atlas and Pleione) are shown in the photo at left. At right, the daughters are pictured in a 10th century Anglo-Saxon manuscript called a codex (Codex Vossianus 79). Their names are Alcyone, Maia, Electra, Celaeno, Taygeta, Asterope, and Merope. Credits: Rawastrodata CC BY-SA 3.0

The moon and Venus won’t be in conjunction but they’ll still be close enough together to get your attention, about 7.5° apart. Once you’ve got your bearings, look a fist and a half (17°) to the left of Venus and you might be able to catch sight of the returning Pleiades star cluster. The little bunch of stars shaped like a miniature Big Dipper is also called the Seven Sisters, after the seven daughters of the Greek gods Atlas and Pleione.

With dawn swelling by the minute, you’ll need binoculars to show the Pleiades at their best. The sight is a special one. After gracing the winter and early spring evening sky, the cluster disappeared from view in May, lost in the glare of the daylight. Now, in late June, it returns reborn, draped in the colors of dawn. Delicate and flickering, the stars seem to struggle to “stand up” to the light. Seeing the Sisters also reminds us that the winter stars are already on the move in the east — a crazy thought to have in your head on the eve of the summer solstice.

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