June Skies - Mercury graces the western evening sky

Saskatchewan Skies

James Edgar

The moon and Venus pair up June 1 in the early morning eastern sky with a 3-degree separation. By the 4th, Mercury comes on the scene, 4 degrees north, but just after new moon, so a tough sighting. On the 5th, Mars in the western evening sky is less than 2 degrees north of the Moon, which is a good guide to locating the tiny sliver of our satellite. On the late evening/early morning of the 6th/7th, the moon is among the stars of the Beehive Cluster (M44). The 15th sees an occultation of Ceres for viewers in eastern Europe and Asia; for the west, it’s a close separation of 0.9 degrees. The moon is full on the 17th, a scant few hours after brushing by Jupiter on the 16th. In a reprise of May’s events, Saturn and Pluto are both occulted for observers in the Southern Hemisphere on the 18th/19th – a close conjunction of both bodies of 0.4 and 0.1 degrees, respectively. Uranus is 5 degrees north of the Moon on the evening of the 27th/early morning of the 28th.

Mercury graces the western evening sky for all of June. On the 4th, the sliver of the Moon glides by the speedy planet, which is at its highest in the sky for 2019 at 25.5 degrees on the following day. On the 18th, Mercury and Mars team up for a very close conjunction of 0.2-degrees separation. The 23rd sees Mercury at its maximum separation (greatest eastern elongation) from the sun.

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Venus in the morning eastern sky is only 3 degrees away from the moon on the 1st, closing fast on the sun – 20 degrees away then and 12 degrees away by the 30th – hardly visible.

Mars is becoming increasingly more difficult to see in the western sky, as Earth speeds away, leaving the Red Planet to fade into obscurity behind the sun by month-end. Before that, though, the moon cuddles up on the 5th, and Mercury is very close on the 18th, which could be a great photo-op for viewers with a clear western horizon.

Jupiter reaches opposition on the 10th, marking a good time to search for the Galilean moons, which are at their brightest and most distant separation from the giant planet. When seen through binoculars or a medium-power telescope, the planet looks relatively close, but bear in mind that it’s 36 light-minutes away – light travelling at 300,000 kilometres per second takes 36 minutes to reach us! Jupiter will be visible all month.

Saturn is gaining in visibility in the evening sky, reaching opposition (opposite the sun) on July 9. Watch for the nearby moon on the late evening of the 18th. By month-end, the Ringed Planet will be visible all through the night.

Uranus is slowly becoming visible in the eastern morning sky, but a tough sighting, since it’s right at sunrise.

Neptune has been prograding and apparently stops movement on the 22nd. Shortly after, the gas giant begins retrograde motion, lasting for about five months. It’s good to remember that this apparent anomaly is caused by Earth’s faster orbit around the sun.

Summer Solstice is at 15:54 UT on June 21.

James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was National President for two terms, is now the Editor of the renowned Observer’s Handbook, and Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.

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