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The Night Sky of June

Dr. Wayne Wooten
Professor of Astronomy

For June 2017, the Moon will be first quarter on June 1st. The waxing gibbous moon will pass two degrees north of Jupiter on June 3rd for our Pavilion gaze. The Full Moon, the Honey Moon, is on June 9th. It will be three degrees north of Saturn, which itself lies opposite the sun at opposition only six days later. The Moon is last quarter on June 17th. The waning crescent moon passes two degrees south of brilliant Venus in the dawn sky on June 20. The summer solstice occurs just before midnight on the same day; this is the longest day, with about 14 hours of daylight locally. The Moon is new on June 23rd; two more new moons until the total solar eclipse of August 21st!

While the naked eye, dark adapted by several minutes away from any bright lights, is a wonderful instrument to stare up into deep space, far beyond our own Milky Way, binoculars are better for spotting specific deep sky objects. For a detailed map of northern hemisphere skies, about May 31st visit the www.skymaps.comwebsite and download the map for June 2017; it will have a more extensive calendar, and list of best objects for the naked eyes, binoculars, and scopes on the back of the map. There is also a video exploring the June 2016 sky from the Hubble Space Telescope website at: http://hubblesite.org/explore_astronomy/tonights_sky/.

As June starts, Mercury is briefly visible in the dawn sky, but the dawn belongs to brilliant Venus, which reached greatest western elongation, 46 degrees in front of the rising sun, on June3rd. Mars lies behind the sun for the next two months, but a year from now, will be at opposition, the best view of it since 2003. Jupiter is well placed for evening observers in Virgo, just west of Spica. It is the brightest evening planet out now, and any small scope will also spot its four Galilean moons.

But in the SE, Saturn, just north of the tail of Scorpius, is a great show all night. It comes to opposition, rising in the SE at sunset, on June 15th. Saturnís rings are now open about 27 degrees at its solstice. You may also see some belts and zones on the planetís disk. The largest, Titan, will be seen in any small telescope, but others will need larger scopes to spot. Again, you can get great views and shots of it at our beach gazes now!

The winter constellations are being swallowed up in the Sunís glare, but you might spot Sirius low in the SW as June begins. Sirius vanishes into the Sunís glare by mid-June, and this sets the period as "Dog Days", when Sirius lies lost in the Sunís glare. In reality, Sirius is about 20x more luminous than our star, but also lies eight light years distant, while our star is eight light minutes away from us.

The brightest star in the NW is Capella, distinctively yellow in color. It is a giant star, almost exactly the same temperature as our Sun, but about 100X more luminous. Just south of it are the stellar twins, the Gemini, with Castor closer to Capella, and Pollux closer to the Little Dog Star, Procyon. By the end of June, all the winter stars, like Sirius, are vanished behind the Sun.

Overhead, the Big Dipper rides high. Good scouts know to take its leading pointers north to Polaris, the famed Pole Star. For us, it sits 30 degrees (our latitude) high in the north, while the rotating earth beneath makes all the other celestial bodies spin around it from east to west.

If you drop south from the bowl of the Big Dipper, Leo the Lion rides high. Note the Egyptian Sphinx is based on the shape of this Lion in the sky. Taking the arc in the Dipperís handle, we "arc" SE to bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star of Spring.

Spike south to Spica, the hot blue star in Virgo (with Jupiter now to its upper right), then curve to Corvus the Crow, a four sided grouping. It is above Corvus, in the arms of Virgo, where our large scopes will show members of the Virgo Supercluster, a swarm of over a thousand galaxies about 50 million light years away from us.

To the east, Hercules is rising, with the nice globular cluster M-13 marked on your sky map and visible in binocs. This rich cluster is one of the top telescopic sights in good sized scopes. Several other good globular clusters are also shown and listed on the best binoc objects on the map back page.

The brightest star of the northern hemisphere, Vega rises in the NE as twilight deepens. Twice as hot as our Sun, it appears blue-white, like most bright stars. Its constellation, tiny Lyra, looks like a parallogram just south of Vega, but was the harp of Orpheus in Greek legends

In the southeast, Antares rises about the same time as Vega does, in the brightest of all constellations, Scorpius. Antares appears reddish (its Greek name means rival of Ares or Mars to the Romans) because it is half as hot as our yellow Sun; it is bright because it is a bloated red supergiant, big enough to swallow up our solar system all the way out to Saturnís orbit! Saturn lies north of the stinger tail of Scorpius, on the border of the teapot shape of Sagittarius rising in the SE after sunset..

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