Highlights for the June Night Sky
Do your part and help preserve the dark skies that we are fortunate to have in Waterville Estates. Turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting.
Go outside tonight and discover the Night Sky
Brought to you by: Bob Haskins
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary line in the sky called the ecliptic.
Jupiter: “Hail to the King” Jupiter is the highlighted planet of the month. It will be visible all night long. Look for it high in the south to southwest at nightfall. Jupiter will be shinning at magnitude -2.3 at the beginning of the month and fads slightly to -2.0 at the end of the month. Jupiter is the most rewarding planet to observe with binoculars. Even at 7X it appears as a round disc. But the real show is the four Galilean moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Dust off your old binoculars and give it a try.
Mars: The “Red Planet” finally exits from view around the beginning of June as it sinks below the horizon shortly after sunset. This is the last we will see Mars for awhile as it is lost in the solar glare for the summer.
Saturn: The ringed planet rises in the east at sunset. Look for it later in the evening in the south.
Venus: If you are up early you can catch Venus rising in the east at dawn.
Stars and Constellations:
The brilliant constellations of summer have begun their ascent into the evening sky. Soon we will once again marvel at our old friends, but for now let us focus on our new friend from last month, the star Arcturus. Located almost directly overhead this month, Arcturus is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere*at this time of year and is part of the constellation Bootes, the “Herdsman” or “Ox Driver”. The star was well known to the ancients and may well have been the first star given a name. Arcturus means “guardian of the bear” or the Big Dipper as we commonly know it as today. To find Arcturus, “follow the arc to Arcturus” and remember that the arc refers to the handle of the dipper.
To the left of Bootes is the the constellation Corona Borealis or Northern Crown. The Greeks called it a wreath, the Arabs a broken dish and the Shawnee Indians the Heavenly Sisters, but crown it is. Use a modest pair of binoculars to see all seven stars.
The summer solstice occurs on the 21th of the month. This marks the longest day for us in the northern hemisphere and it is the furthest north the sun gets on its yearly journey.
* Refer to the diagram taken from Chet Raymo’s book, 365 Starry Nights
Cassini, the little spacecraft that could, is going out in a blaze. For the next four months, the most sophisticated probe ever made will travel precariously between Saturn and her icy rings. Each of the 22 orbits will last approximately 7 days and will end on September 15. The pictures that she will send back to us should be spectacular In this grand finale to its 20–year journey Cassini will surrender to the gravity of Saturn and crash onto the surface of the planet. Job well done.
Comment / Factoid of the Month:
Keep a pair of binoculars handy, they are a great way to view the stars and planets. They have a wide field of view which makes it easy for you to spot planets and star groupings. An example of this; locate the handle of the dipper and follow the stars along the arc and you will see a double star. They are Mizar and Alcor To the naked eye they look like one star but with binoculars, that one star becomes two or a double star.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead)
- com (The evening sky map for the month)
- nasa.gov (sign up for alerts for the Intrnational Space Station passing overhead)