Photo of the Week. Memory of Venus and Jupiter, March
18, 2012, with fainter Jupiter dropping down from their earlier
Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, June 8, 2012.
The next Skylights will appear June 22.
Starting at the waning gibbous phase, the
Moon passes through third quarter the morning of Monday, June 11.
It then fades through morning's eastern waning crescent to new, that phase reached
on Tuesday the 19th. Our companion then flips to the other side of
the sky, growing as a waxing crescent
visible in western evening twilight. Many are the planetary
passages. Look the morning of Sunday the 17th to find the Moon
just to the northeast of Jupiter, with Venus well down
and to the left. A good horizon is necessary, the planets hard to
see. Then on the evening of Thursday the 21st, the western
sky presents us with a fine line-up, starting with the thin
crescent at the bottom, then proceeding up and to the right with Mercury,
followed by Pollux, and Castor in Gemini. The Moon also respectively visits north of Neptune and Uranus on
Saturday the 9th and Tuesday the 12th. Finally, it passes apogee, where it
is farthest from Earth, on Friday the 15th.
Well, not quite finally. On Wednesday the 20th at 6:09 PM CDT
(7:09 EDT, 5:09 MDT, 4:09 PDT) the Sun will cross
the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini (given modern constellation boundaries technically
in eastern Taurus), to announce
the first day of astronomical summer. At that time, the Sun will
be highest at noon, pass overhead at the Tropic of Cancer, and rise and set as far to the northeast and
northwest as possible. Rising and setting as early and late
as possible, Wednesday the 20th will be the longest day and will
have the shortest night.
Having just passed inferior conjunction with the Sun on June 5th,
when it transited across the solar disk for the last time until
2117, Venus now appears low in the bright morning dawn sky. It
will get much better as June turns to July. Just half an hour
before Venus appears, Jupiter launches itself upward in early dawn,
the two planets hard to see. In the evening, though, it's not hard
to find Mars and Saturn. Well into the west after dark, Mars now
sets around local midnight. South of the hindquarters of Leo, to the southeast of Regulus, Mars crosses the border
into Virgo on Thursday the 21st.
To the east of Mars and north of Spica, crossing the meridian near sunset, Saturn is already
on the western side of the sky as it gets dark, the ringed planet
now setting by 2:30 AM or so. Farther west, you might spot Mercury
in bright twilight.
The environs of the ecliptic,
the apparent solar path, is filled with bright lights. Going to
the east (leftward) from Leo's Regulus, we encounter Mars, then the
Spica-Saturn pair in Virgo, and end with Antares in Scorpius, which is now making a midnight appearance.