Highlights for the June Night Sky
Brought to you by: Bob Haskins
Do your part and help preserve the dark skies that we are fortunate to have in Waterville Estates. Turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting.
After a long winter step outdoors tonight and discover the treasures of the night sky.
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary line in the sky called the ecliptic.
Mars and Mercury are both visible at dusk in the WNW this month – don’t miss this opportunity to spot Mercury. As the month progresses the time Mars spends above the horizon goes from two hours to one. Mercury starts the month below Mars but at the end of the month is above the red planet setting one hour after the Sun.
Jupiter shines brightly all month in the south near the constellation Scorpius. It will be near the full moon toward the middle of the month. Jupiter is the brightest it has been in over five years but it is fairly low in the sky..
Saturn rises three hours after sunset. Look for it in the SSE.
Venus will be low in the NNE.
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
While life is a special kind of complex chemistry, the elements involved are nothing special: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen are among the most abundant in the universe. Complex organic chemistry is common. Amino acids have been found in the tails of comets and 6,500 light years away a giant cloud of alcohol floats among the stars. Astronomers at the University of California estimate that there could be 40 billion Earth-sized exoplanets in the so-called “habitable zone” around their star, where temperatures are mild enough for liquid water to exist. Life is robust.
Comment / Factoid of the Month:
Auroras were spotted in Ohio last month on the 14th. It you get up in the middle of the night glance to the north you might get lucky and spot an aurora.
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 International Space Station passing overhead)