Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 18, 2010.
The week spans the growing gibbous Moon,
which starts on Friday, June 18th in its first quarter and ends Friday the 25th just
shy of full. This full Moon, which takes
place on Saturday the 26th, will be partially
eclipsed, and you get to see it if you are somewhere in the
middle of the Pacific Ocean, so make your plans now (though it will
not be that much of a sight). The evening of Friday the 18th sees
the first quarter Moon to the southwest of Saturn, while the following
night finds it a bit to the southeast of the ringed planet for the
only passage of note.
Eminently visible, Saturn still resides in western Virgo just to the northwest of the Autumnal Equinox. A true evening
object, it now sets at local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time). To the
west of Saturn, you can still admire Mars, which, moving
rapidly, falls just to the southeast of Regulus in Leo. Now just a bit fainter than Saturn, it sets only
about an hour earlier. That said, the early evening remains
dominated by brilliant Venus, which
claims the sky until it sets around 11 PM Daylight, a bit after the
end of twilight. The morning sky is then dominated by the giant of
the Solar System, Jupiter. Now
rising at local midnight (just as Saturn sets), Jupiter closely
marks the Vernal Equinox to the
southeast of Pisces' Circlet.
Two extremes mark the week. The first involves our favorite
planet, Earth. At 6:28 CDT the
morning of Monday the 21st, the Sun crosses the Summer Solstice in Gemini, marking the beginning of
astronomical summer, at which time the rotation axis of the Earth
will be tipped as much as possible (23.4 degrees) toward the Sun.
Northern hemisphere daylight will thus be longest, night shortest,
the Sun rising at its extreme northeastern position, setting in its
extreme northwesterly spot. It can also be seen as circumpolar --
not setting -- as far south as the Arctic Circle, and invisible --
not rising -- from the south pole to the Antarctic Circle. At
other end of the visibility scale,
Pluto goes through opposition with the Sun on Friday the 25th among the crowds of
stars in northern Sagittarius,
which rises near sunset.
To the west of Sagittarius (and far to the south) lies the curves
of stars that make Scorpius, the
Scorpion, with reddish Antares at
its heart. To the north of Scorpius, practically connected to it,
is the giant constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, with
Serpens wrapped around his body, though the fainter stars will be
pretty much obliterated by the brightening Moon.