Photo of the Week.Venus and Jupiter grace the
evening sky in March of 2012.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 13, 2014.
As busy as last week was, this one isn't. The Moon starts off just
past full and thus spends most of its
time diminishing in the waning gibbous
phase, finally reaching third quarter
the morning of Thursday, June 19, about the time it sets in North
America. The morning of Friday the 20th, you'll see it rise just
barely into the waning crescent phase.
There are no significant planetary passages unless you want to
count the one several degrees north of Neptune the
morning of Wednesday the 18th. The night of Saturday the 14th,
our orbiting companion passes through perigee, where it is nearest to Earth on its monthly
round, just over five percent more closer than average.
at the end of evening twilight, Venus rises just
past the start of dawn, and Mercury passes inferior
conjunction with the Sun
(on the near side of the Sun) on Thursday the 19th. The little
planet will not make a decent appearance until late October. That
leaves us with Mars and Saturn,
which is hardly bad. As the sky darkens, you'll find Mars in the
southwestern sky. Just look for the brightest thing there in
early evening, the reddish planet still to the northwest of the
star Spica in Virgo. It finally sets in the west
around 2 AM Daylight Time. To the east of Mars and Spica, Saturn
transits the meridian to the south at
the end of twilight just about as Jupiter sets. In central Libra between the stars Zubenelgenubi to the southwest and
Zubeneschamali to the northeast,
it's fainter than Mars but brighter than Spica. The ringed planet
sets just after dawn almost exactly as Venus rises.
Are you ready? Summer begins at 5:51 AM CDT the morning of
Saturday the 21st, when the Sun crosses the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini. More about that next
It's a wonderful time of the year to admire the star Arcturus, the brightest star of
the northern hemisphere and the luminary of the constellation of
Bootes, the Herdsman, who follows
Ursa Major, the Great Bear, around
the North Celestial Pole. Follow the
curve of the Big Dipper's
handle through Arcturus and the imaginary line will run through
Spica, which (as seen above) falls between Mars and Saturn. To
the west of Arcturus is the lovely cluster of Coma Berenices (Berenices Hair,
honoring an ancient queen), while to the east is the head of Serpens, the giant snake that
wraps itself around giant Ophiuchus.