Our Friendly Skies

June 01, 2009|By ROD MARTIN / Brish Planetarium and ANDY SMETZER / Tristate Astronomers

Visible Evening Planets

Saturn is visible all night.

Visible Morning Planets

Venus is very bright in the east before sunrise.

Jupiter is bright in the southeast before sunrise.

Mars rises before the sun.

For more information about the visible evening planets and nighttime sky, download the planetarium's podcast "Skylights" from

Solar System

Saturn rules the evening sky high in the southwest as darkness settles in.

Saturn is the only planet visible in the evening. The rings are narrow to our field of view and will become narrower as the year passes. The side we see is shaded and closing. A telescope will show some of its larger moons. Saturn will set around midnight.

There are a couple nice planet pairings in the morning this month. The brightest planet is Venus at -4.1 magnitude. It reaches greatest elongation on June 5 and rises about two and one half hours before the Sun.


Mars is much fainter, almost 100 times dimmer, than Venus, but Mars is close to the brightest planet all month. The two are within two degrees on June 19. Look for the red "star" near Venus.

The other pairing involves a bright planet and one that needs a pair of binoculars or telescope. Jupiter is the second brightest planet at -2.5 magnitude. As it climbs higher in the sky, the moons will become easier to see.

Nearby, and resembling one of the moons, is Neptune. At +8 magnitude, Neptune is dimmer than Jupiter's moons. The two planets may be within the same binocular field much of the month.

Mercury reaches greatest western elongation on June 13. It will be low along the horizon about halfway between the sun and Venus. Its angle makes it a tough object to spot.

Speaking of tough, Pluto reaches opposition on June 23. The faint dwarf planet requires a telescope to locate. It will be harder than usual to see this year because it is right in the Milky Way. There are so many faint stars there that it can be easily missed.

Sun and moon

On June 1, the sun rose at 5:45 a.m. and set at 8:33 p.m. for 14 hours and 48 minutes of daylight. By June 30, the sun rises at 5:47 and sets at 8:43 for 14 hours and 56 minutes of daylight.

The sun reaches an important spot in the sky this month. On June 21 at 1:46 a.m., it reaches its highest position in the sky. That is the time of the Summer Solstice. At our latitude, the sun is never directly overhead, but this is the highest it gets at about 73.5 degrees. Remember, 90 degrees is overhead. The solstice is the longest day of the year with nearly 15 hours of daylight.

The sun enters the astronomical boundaries of Gemini from Taurus on June 21.

The moon reaches full on June 7, last quarter on June 15, new on June 22, and first quarter on June 29.

Brish Planetarium and events

2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. Four hundred years ago, Galileo first pointed his telescope toward the sky and revolutionized astronomy. His observations helped provide the proofs that the Earth revolved around the sun instead of the other way.

The Tristate Astronomers are very active and hold many events to share our hobby. For more information about schedules and special events, go to

The planetarium is now closed for the summer. Programs will resume in October with "Planets."

The planetarium is at the Central Offices of the Washington County Public Schools on Commonwealth Avenue off Frederick Street in Hagerstown.

The planetarium's Web site is

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