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Our Friendly Skies: June 2010

June 02, 2010|By ROD MARTIN / Brish Planetarium and ANDY SMETZER / Tristate Astronomers
  • All-sky chart - June 2010
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Visible Evening Planets

VENUS is bright in the west after sunset.

MARS is in the west.

SATURN is in the southwest at sunset.

Visible Morning Planets

JUPITER is bright in the east.

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

The Solar System

Three planets approach each other this month in preparation of a close grouping later this summer. Watch Venus, Mars, and Saturn get closer and line up. Also in the grouping are the stars Regulus and Spica. All, except Venus, are similar brightness.

Venus is the brightest evening night object except the Moon at -4 magnitude. Look for the VERY bright "star" as soon as the sun sets. It is pulling away from the sun and is higher each night in the west. You can't miss this one, honest!

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Next in line is the Mars and Regulus combination. Mars is now moving quickly compared with the background stars. It is within the boundaries of Leo the Lion and passes less than one degree north of Regulus on June 6. It is speeding through Leo. For comparison, the moon is one-half degree.

Next is Saturn. The ringed planet doesn't seem as bright as usual because the rings are only tilted 1.7 degrees, nearly edge-on. Look for it between the blue star Spica in Virgo and Mars in Leo. It sets around midnight near the end of the month.

Jupiter is the bright morning planet. Look for it in the morning. It is bright in the faint constellation Pisces. Uranus moves within one half degree above and slightly left of Jupiter on June 8. The duo stay within a degree the first half of the month and within two degrees the rest of the month. Uranus will be a bluish-green color and not quite as bright as the moons of Jupiter. Use good binoculars or a telescope to spot this pairing.

Mercury is low in the eastern morning sky the first half of the month, but not easy to see. It reaches superior conjunction on June 28 when it is directly opposite the sun.

The dwarf planet Pluto reaches opposition on June 25 as does the brightest asteroid Ceres on June 18. At opposition the objects are visible all night.

Sun and moon

The sun reaches its highest altitude and greatest distance north of the equator on June 21 at 7:28 a.m. That is the summer solstice. That day has the longest daylight of any other day of the year, at 14 hours and 59 minutes. Unfortunately, the daylight will then begin to shorten until the winter solstice in December.

On June 1, the sun rose at 5:45 a.m. and sets at 8:32 p.m., for 14 hours and 47 minutes of daylight. By June 30, the sun rises at 5:46 a.m. and sets at 8:42 p.m., for 14 hours and 56 minutes of daylight.

The sun enters the astronomical boundaries of Gemini from Taurus on June 21, just eight hours after the solstice.

The moon reaches last quarter on June 4, new on June 12, first quarter on June 19, and full on June 26. There is a partial lunar eclipse on June 26; unfortunately, we will not see it. Only a very slight darkening of the moon will be visible to us as it enters the penumbra as it sets.

Brish Planetarium and events

Public planetarium programs have concluded for the current school year. They will resume in October with the "Universe of Dr. Einstein."

The planetarium is located at the central offices of the Washington County Public Schools on Commonwealth Avenue off Frederick Street in Hagerstown. The planetarium's website is http://www.wcboe.k12.md.us/content/d_i_planet.cfm.

For more information about schedules and special events, go to http://www.tristateastronomers.org/

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