Heads UP! for June 2014
Jupiter heads for the exits this month – on its way out watch for its changing alignments with 1st magnitude stars Castor and Pollux.
Mercury starts June low to the right of the dancing Gemini and Jupiter; just above the horizon as twilight fades. Mercury doesn’t hang out with the boys for long, so check early in the month. It becomes the closest planet to Earth this month, getting larger, with a crescent phase. As Mercury passes through the glare of the Sun, check it out at the SOHO C3 web site http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime-images.html
Just to the upper left of the dancing twins, the backward question mark making the head of Leo looks more like a sickle about to harvest the Moon and Jupiter after sunset late in June.
Saturn is as high as it gets in the sky after dark this year, a bit smaller but with its rings 21 degrees open, it’s a fantastic site in any telescope. After taking in the rings and the butterscotch bands of the planet’s atmosphere, count how many of Saturn’s moons you can see in the telescope. Titan, is easiest to see. You might see a few more moons. The two-faced moon Iapetus passes to the south of Saturn on its way to turning its brighter face toward us in early July, when it brightens to magnitude +10.1 .
Mars is nicely placed in the southwestern sky at the start of June. But the reddish planet fades and shrinks like a color cotton t-shirt in a hot water wash.
Asteroids Ceres and Vesta offer us a two-for-one deal in late June. They get within a full moon’s width from each other in our skies from June 29th through July 5th. They are dimmer than they were a few months ago, now at magnitudes +8.4 and +7.1, respectively, so it helps to have a finder chart from an astronomical website to pick out which of the points of light in your telescope are the asteroids.
Venus is still the brightest planet at magnitude minus 3.9, but getting smaller and looking like a gibbous Moon in a telescope. Look low in the east northeast before sunrise. Venus is racing out ahead of us, but we keep up enough so Venus stays in our morning sky though the summer. It’s noticeably close to the Moon on the 24th. During the last week of June, with binoculars, can you see the wide star clusters, Hyades and Pleiades in the neighborhood of Venus as they come out from behind the Sun?
Uranus and Neptune are getting up earlier in the morning sky. Will you?
Moon points out the way to:
Jupiter on May 31st/June 1st and June 28th
Mars on the 7th
Spica on the 8th
Saturn on the 10th
Venus on the 24th
Aldebaran on the 25th/26th.
The Milky Way climbs out of the horizon’s mists where it hid in May.
The International Space Station spends most of early June in sunlight, so we can see it up to 5 times a night at first, then in the evenings from the 10th through the 21st. Watch continuous live video from a camera mounted outside the ISS (except for when it’s out of the range of tracking stations or the Earth is too dark when the ISS passes through the Earth’s shadow) at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-iss-stream .
The northern summer solstice occurs on the 21st at 6:51am EDT. The earliest sunrise is on the 14th and the earliest sunset is on the 27th.