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Orange sunset

Photo of the Week.An orange sky brings memories of autumn.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 6, 2014.

It's quite the week. The Moon passed its first quarter just as our last week ended on Thursday, June 5, so we begin the new week with the Moon in its waxing gibbous phase, which will occupy the entire period until full phase is passed the night of Thursday the 12th. The evening of Friday the 6th we find the just-barely-gibbous Moon approaching Mars. Then take special note of the following night, that of Saturday the 7th, when the Moon will make a close pass south of the red planet. By the NEXT night, our orbiting companion will be well east of Mars, but now just barely northeast of the first magnitude star Spica. The evening of Monday the 9th, the Moon then approaches Saturn, while falling to the southeast of the ringed planet the night of Tuesday the 10th, the two aligned with Scorpius and Antares below. Not done, the night of Wednesday the 11th, we see the near full Moon north of Antares, the star a bit hard to see in all the moonlight.

Sadly, Jupiter is leaving us, as it now sets just about as evening twilight comes to an end. Moving easterly against the background stars, the giant planet will leave its long-time residence in Gemini, and head for Cancer and the Beehive Cluster. You'll see it again in the morning skies toward the end of August. Jupiter's task of gracing nighttime skies now reverts to Mars and Saturn. As evening falls, Mars is in the southwest sky to the northwest of the first magnitude star Spica in Virgo and just below the star Porrima (Gamma Virginis). At the same time, Saturn is transiting the meridian to the south within the confines of Libra between old friends Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, the southern and northern claws of Scorpius, which lies to the southeast. As the evening progresses, Mars goes down around 2:30 AM Daylight Time, while Saturn lingers 'till past dawn, setting just after Venus comes up. Venus's rising will track the beginning of eastern twilight until the middle of August, its later rising making it increasingly difficult to see. In minor news, Neptune begins Retrograde motion on Tuesday the 9th against the stars of Aquarius, several degrees south of the asterism that makes the Waterman's Water Jar.

Summer brings a richness of stars. One hardly knows where to look. You might try the deep south, where the stars of northern Centaurus roll by as darkness descends, followed by those of Lupus, the Wolf, then Scorpius with bright Antares. Radiating at a rate of more than 60,000 times that of the Sun, were the red supergiant in our solar system, it would extend 65 percent of the way to the orbit of Jupiter and cover most of the asteroid belt. To the east of Scorpius is Sagittarius. It holds the Winter Solstice and the Galaxy's central black hole, which weighs in at 4 million solar masses.

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