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 at Waterville Estates. Please turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting. 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.
Dusk and into the night:
All is quiet at dusk, once again, for the month of June as far as the planets are concerned. You will have to get up early at dawn to see the planets.
All five naked eye planets will be visible just before sunrise this month from the 6th through to the 27th. The planetary string will be in full view as they form a graceful arc across the sky starting in the east with Mercury and Venus and ending higher in the south with Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
New on June 29
Full on June 14
Longest day of the year is June 21st.
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 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 21st 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
Astronomers last month unveiled the first image of the black hole that is at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. To get this image was no easy task. The center of our galaxy is shrouded in gas and is difficult to see through. To capture the image the National Science foundation relied on contributions from 300 scientists at 80 institutions and 8 telescopes.
The black hole is located, as seen from Earth, in the constellation Sagittarius which is in the south. It has a mass of four million suns. Its gravity is so powerful that it bends space and time and forms a glowing ring of light with a completely black core.
Comment / Factoid of the Month:
What does it mean when we say the moon is waxing or waning?
The moon revolves around the Earth roughly once every 28 days and as it does, we see different angles of the moon’s illuminated surface. The light we see coming from the moon is a result of the Sun’s rays reflecting off the moon’s surface. When the moon is new it is located between the Earth and the Sun and hence, we cannot see it. This is the new moon. For the next roughly 14 days we say the moon is waxing and the right side is illuminated. Then we have the full moon when the full face of the moon is illuminated. After this the moon goes into the waning phase and the left side is illuminated. When the moon is waning, you can see it during the morning hours.
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)