Jun 01

June 2007

What’s Up in the Sky June, 2007

Observation opportunities abound in June

The month of June has a lot to offer. School ends, summer vacation begins, and observing opportunities abound. The only drawback is that it gets dark so late that serious observing takes place mostly after midnight. But this June offers plenty to see without staying up late.

This Friday, June 1, go out around 10 pm to a location with a clear view of the western horizon. Venus will be dazzling as it has been all spring. To the right of Venus, you should see two stars, Castor and Pollux, the three evenly spaced along a straight line. Venus will also be in line with the planets Saturn and Mercury, although the spacing is much greater. Look for Saturn to Venus upper left and Mercury to the lower right, near the horizon. Binoculars may help for Mercury.

By the 12th you will see that Venus has moved up and away from the twin stars and binoculars will reveal it to be very close to M44, the Beehive cluster. Watch the planet move past this cluster over the next several nights.

The real fun begins on June 16 when the young crescent moon lines up with Venus, Saturn, and the star Regulus. Over the next three evenings you will witness the moon move toward the upper left, passing close to all three objects. On the 19th, be sure to go out right after sunset (9:25 p.m.), find the crescent moon and, using binoculars or a small telescope, see if you can spot Regulus right above it. You may have to wait for the sky to darken but if you continue to watch you will be able to see the moon passing the star.

During the last week of the month watch each night as Venus closes in on Saturn. On June 30 the two form a spectacular close pair, separated by a little more than one moon diameter. It is the best pairing of two planets all year.

Astronomy doesn’t have to be difficult. None of these observations requires special equipment, a dark sky or long hours. All you need are your eyes and an interest in what’s up in the sky.

This month in history:

June 3: Gemini IV astronaut, Ed White, takes America’s first space walk – 1965
June 10: Mars rover Spirit launched – 2003
June 16: Valentina Tereshkova first (and only solo) woman in space – 1963
June 18: Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space – 1983
June 30: Tunguska impact (probably a comet fragment) flattens hundreds of miles of Siberian forrest – 1908

Here are this month’s viewing highlights:

Planets this month: Venus continues to dazzle western sky at dusk. See it near M44 on the 12th, the crescent moon on the 18th and Saturn on the 30th. Jupiter reaches opposition on June 5th – visible all night. Saturn is to the upper left of Venus, forming a very close pair on the 30th.

June 1-2: Venus in line with Castor and Pollux.
June 8: Last-quarter Moon
June 12: Binoculars show Venus very close to Beehive cluster.
June 14: New Moon.
June 17-19: Watch Moon pass line of objects Venus, Saturn, Regulus.
June 22: First quarter Moon.
June 30: Full Moon; Venus/Saturn form close pair.

Peter Burkey – SAAA Member-At-Large