Photo of the Week. The Moon visits Venus in a
classic pairing the evening of May 19, 2007.
Astronomy news for the three-week period starting Friday, June
We begin our three weeks with the full
Moon, which takes place the morning of Saturday, June 30. The
last full Moon as seen from North America was on May 31, but from
Europe, the time was past midnight on June 1. So we have the
oddity of a "blue Moon" (second full in the month) in the Old
World, but not in the New. After moving through waning
gibbous, our companion passes third
quarter on Saturday, July 7, wanes
through the crescent to new on Saturday the 14th, and, after
popping up in the evening western sky, waxes through most of its crescent phase.
As it goes 'round, the Moon passes south of
Neptune on Tuesday, July 3, then south of Uranus two days later. The morning of Monday the
9th, the waning crescent can be seen just to the northwest of Mars. As
the morning crescent drops toward the dawn horizon it will pass
nicely through Taurus the
mornings of Wednesday the 11th and Thursday the 12th. The
following morning, as the crescent is about to disappear, it will
lie just above the dawn horizon and to the left of Mercury. Flipping to the
other side of the sky, as the crescent then waxes in the west, you
can admire a close encounter with Saturn, the Moon seen just to the left of the
planet the evening of Monday the 16th, when the Moon, the ringed
planet, Regulus in Leo, and brilliant Venus will all be
gathered in a nice clump (Venus and the star a bit farther left).
The following night the Moon will appear up and to the left of
Venus, the two continuing to make a fine sight.
Three notable events dominate our 1.5-fortnight interval. First,
as June turns to July, Venus and Saturn will pass each other by
only 0.8 degrees. Formal conjunction takes place the evening of
Sunday, July 1. (Venus follows this act by passing south of Leo's
Regulus on Monday the 16th.) Second, after growing brighter all
year, Venus, coming ever closer to Earth, passes its greatest
brilliancy on Thursday the 12th. The night of conjunction with
Saturn, it will be an amazingly 120 times brighter than the ringed
planet. Finally, on Friday, July 6, Earth takes the
stage by passing aphelion, where it is farthest from the Sun in its
slightly elliptical path, when it will be 1.7 percent farther than
the average of 93.2 million miles.
After admiring Venus and Saturn, turn your eye to Jupiter, which in the middle of our period
crosses the meridian around 10:30 PM
Daylight Time, about as Saturn and Venus set, the giant planet
(just north of Antares) not
itself setting until dawn begins to light the sky. In the morning
sky, Mars picks up steam by approaching first magnitude and rising
ever earlier, shortly after local midnight. Morning's Mercury then
hits greatest western elongation just as Skylight's current period
draws to a close.
Though large constellations sometimes seem to be the more
important, don't forget the smaller ones. Among the best is Lyra. Passing nearly overhead around
midnight in the temperate north, marked by bright Vega, it is followed by much larger Cygnus (and Deneb). Just to the south of Cygnus
find two of the sky's prettiest smaller figures, Sagitta (the Arrow) and Delphinus (the Dolphin, but shaped
more like a hand with a finger pointing to the southwest).