The night skies over Thunder Bay

June 2020

The days of summer that we long for all winter give way to evenings perfect for star gazing. We enjoy so much natural beauty near-the lake, the landscapes, the scenery that it is easy to forget to
turn our attention skyward and see what the night skies over Thunder Bay have to reveal.

According to Brendon Roy, President of the Thunder Bay Chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the skies over Thunder Bay will put on a great show this summer. No special equipment is required, although a pair of binoculars would be handy if you have them.

The summer solstice, the longest day of the year will take place on June 20.

The solstice occurs when the sun is at either it’s most northerly or southerly position in the sky. On June 20th Thunder Bay receives about 16 hours of daylight. If you go North of the city there will be no “true night” on that day, the darkest it will get is twilight.

After June 15th, Jupiter and Saturn are visible starting at midnight and will rise earlier every day.

Just before sunrise for the first couple of weeks of July, Mercury will be visible in the morning sky. It will be hard to find at first due to the twilight, however, on July 18th, you will be able to spot it below the crescent Moon by about 9 degrees, or a fist width, with the best viewing day being July 22nd.

Venus is the 3rd brightest object in the night sky (almost the same size as the Earth) and is highly visible. In early July, it will appear in the morning sky about an hour before sunrise. “Venus is easy to see because it is so bright, making it almost unmistakeable”, advises Roy.

Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the morning sky at the start of summer and will rise earlier as the summer progresses. “Both pIanets are really close in the sky all summer long, so if you find one you should be able to find the other”, notes Roy. If you have binoculars, you will be able to spot 4 of Jupiter’s moons, appearing beside the planet. To the naked eye, Jupiter will have a slight orange hue and Saturn will have a more yellow hue. If you have a telescope, you will be able to see the rings around Saturn.

For early risers or late-nighters, on August 15th Mars will shine bright to the South a couple of hours before sunrise. It will be the reddest star on the Eastern horizon.

Meteor Showers:
A meteor shower is created when a comet passes the path of Earth’s orbit. Bits of dust and rocks from the tail of the comet fall into our atmosphere which causes these particles to heat up and glow before they burn up. The name of the meteor shower is derived from the constellation that the shower appears to come from. For example, Taurids comes from Taurus and Persieds comes from Perseus.

For best viewing, Roy recommends finding an area far away from any lights and an expanse of open sky. Then it’s as simple as looking up and taking in the show. As long as we have clear skies, we will be treated to one each month this summer.

  • June 25th-Beta-Taurids: You can expect up to about 25 meteors an hour. It gets better as you approach morning, so it’s the best for all the night hawks among us
  • July 30th- Southern Aquariids: Visible at the end of July all night. Expect around 20 an hour or so
  • August 30th-Perseids: Main show: Best on August 13th and you can expect a 100 or so an hour, visible all night

International Space Station
Often when enjoying the warm weather in the evening in our backyard, we have noticed a very bright, very large object passing over. After asking around, we learned it is the International Space Station and we see it fairly frequently. Roy recommends going to for updates on nightly overhead passes.
To learn more about astronomy in Thunder Bay or anywhere in Canada, go to

Kathy Shilliday is a regular contributor and a hawk eye for stories to share. She can be reached at

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