Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 14, 2013.
The Moon begins the week as a fat waxing
crescent, then goes through its first
quarter on Sunday the 16th around the time of Moonrise in North
America. The rest of the week is spent with it in the waxing gibbous phase, full Moon not reached until early next week.
Look for the Moon playing tag with the star Spica (Virgo's luminary) and
evening of Monday the 17th, the Moon will lie to the west of Spica,
while the following night it will sit sort of between the star and
the planet, though closer to Spica. By the evening of
Wednesday the 18th, our gibbous companion will have passed them
both, then appearing to the east of Saturn, the three in a broken
Though Jupiter has
retired from the evening skies, we still have Mercury and Venus dancing in evening
twilight to entertain us. Look in the west-northwest in dusk for
the brighter of the two, Venus, then early in the week up and to
the left to find Mercury. By the end of the week,
Mercury will be down and to the left, the two passing each other.
You'll need a good flat horizon and a very clear sky: binoculars
will help. Both will have set before the sky fully darkens.
Hovering over them will be Castor
and Pollux in Gemini.
Jupiter is more than just "retired," it's gone. On Wednesday the
19th, it passes conjunction with the Sun and thereby
transfers to the morning sky, though it will be another month or so
before you can catch it in dawn's light. But (as noted earlier)
the other giant planet is right up there, transiting the meridian
to the south (and east of Spica) around 9:30 PM as twilight draws
to a close. And it's on view until close to 3 AM when it sets,
shortly before dawn.
The big event is the passage of the Sun across the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini at 12:04 AM CDT the morning
of Friday, June 21st (1:04 AM EDT, 11:04 and 10:04 MDT and PDT the
night of Thursday June 20) to announce the beginning of
astronomical summer. At that moment the Sun will be as far north
as possible, 23.4 degrees north of the celestial equator, and we will have
maximum daylight and minimum night. However, because of the
Earth's orbital eccentricity and the 23.4 degree tilt of its axis against the
orbital perpendicular, the year's earliest sunrise took place a
week earlier, on Friday the 14th, though you won't notice much