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The Night Sky of June

Dr. Wayne Wooten
Professor of Astronomy

For June 2014, the Moon will be new on May 29th, so the first two weeks find the moon waxing in the evening sky. On June 1st, the thin waxing crescent moon passes about 5 degrees south of Jupiter in the western sky. . The first quarter moon is high up in the south at sunset on June 5th and appears high lit. The waxing gibbous moon passes 1.5 degrees south of Mars in the SE on June 7th. The almost full moon passes 1.2 degrees south of Saturn on June 10th. Full moon, the Honey Moon, is June 12th.

The last quarter moon is on June 19th. The beginning of summer occurs at 5:51 AM CDT on June 21, the longest day of the year, with about 14 hours of daylight for the Gulf Coast. The waning crescent moon passes 1.3 degrees south of Venus in the dawn on June 24th. The new moon is on June 27th. The waxing crescent moon passes 5.4 degrees south of Jupiter on June 29th.

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.com website and download the map for June 2014; 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.

As June starts, you may just spot Jupiter next to the crescent moon on June 1st. Mars is being left behind by the Earth, and fading in Virgo, just to the lower left of Spica. High up in the southern evening sky is the most beautiful planet, Saturn, well east of Spica, the brightest star of Virgo. Saturn is brighter than Spica, and more yellow in color. Saturnís rings are now open about 20 degrees; they will continue opening up wider until 2017, when they are tilted 27 degrees toward us and the Sun. 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. Venus still dominates the dawn sky, but is pulling away from us on the far side of sun, to pass behind the sun this fall.

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 Mars now to its lower left), 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, corpius. Antares appears reddish (its Greek name means rival of Ares or Mars to the Latins) 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! In the photo of our Galaxyís core in Sagittarius, Antares is the bright red star to the top left of the frame. The Milky Way will be best placed for viewing locally on clear dark evenings in the next few months.

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