Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 11, 2010.
Our week and our Moon start fresh nearly
together, the Moon going through its new
phase the morning of Saturday, June 12, about the time of
Sunrise, and quite invisible. The rest of the week is then spent
watching the growth of the waxing
crescent, as first quarter does not
take place until the night of Friday the 18th. Your first glimpse
of it might be just above the horizon the twilit evening of Sunday
The week will produce fine lunar passages of the two planets that
bracket the Earth.
Look first the early evening of Monday the 14th to see the Moon
four degrees to the south of Venus, the two tag-
teaming with Gemini's Castor and Pollux, which will lie to the right.
At that point the Moon will also be very close to perigee, its
least distance from Earth (not that anyone will notice the small
difference). Then look the night of Thursday the 17th, when the
Moon will glide several degrees southeast of Mars, both of them to
the east of Regulus in Leo.
Venus of course now rules the early evening. The evening of Friday
the 11th, a line through Castor and Pollux will point leftward
right at it. The planet now makes something of a transition, as it
sets as late (11 PM Daylight) as it is going to do in this round of
visibility even though it has a couple months left to go until
greatest eastern elongation. It's now near its best visibility for
the season relative to the end of twilight.
While still setting ever earlier, Mars's eastward drift keeps it
nicely afloat in the early evening. Having moved to the east of
Regulus in Leo, the red planet still does not set until just after
midnight Daylight Time. Somewhat to the east find Saturn in
western Virgo just to the
northwest of the Autumnal
Equinox, the ringed planet setting about an hour after Mars
But take heart, since as Saturn sets, Jupiter rises, the pair keeping very close
"reverse track" with each other over most of the year. Dominating
the morning sky, the giant planet can be found among the dim stars
of Pisces to the southeast of the
"Circlet" and just to the east of
the VERNAL equinox.
It's now prime season for Arcturus and Spica, the luminaries of Bootes, the Herdsman, and Virgo, the Maiden. Just follow the
curve of the Big Dipper's handle
to the south for one, then the other. But directions are hardly
needed to find orange Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern
hemisphere, which flies high around 10 PM. To the south and a bit
west lies blue Spica. Farther down find the tail of Hydra, the Water Serpent, and
farther down yet, near the horizon the stars of northern Centaurus, the fabled