The Summer Solstice arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, at 4:28 a.m. The temperature was 73 F, the sky was clear, just beginning to lighten with the rising sun, and the air was calm, not a tree branch sitrring.
Jupiter dominates the sky, shining like a minor moon, 45 degrees up in the southeasst. Three of the planet’s four Gallilean moons are visible in my telescope, all on the left, or Jupiter’s east. They form an uneven line in the sky, Io and Europa up close and Callisto far out. Ganymede in its orbit is hidden behind the planet.
Just west of zenith, the Summer Triangle is clearly visible, even in this light-polluted city and the coming morn. The brightest of the three stars, Vega, lies about 50 degrees up from the western horizon, with Altair and Deneb to the east and south.
It is at this point, at the start of the longest day of the year, that the sun shines on this planet’s Northern Hemisphere at its farthest point north. And it is at this point that the sun’s imprint on Earth begins to retreat south. And it was at this point, the ancients fell into distress, fearing the light might not return.