Yahoo! I had a wonderful time getting a video of Mercury transiting the Sun last month. I have to say it was quite a challenge setting everything up to record the event. I can’t say that I’ll qualify for an Oscar with my not very exciting video of a tiny black dot moving slowly across the Sun’s face, but think about it. That tiny dot represents a whole planet! Nearby there was a sunspot that was actually bigger than little Mercury. Speaking of planets, this month is a real treat for observing four very well positioned planets.
To make your trip through the night sky easier and less frustrating, get a hold of a star chart on the internet or from the Canadian magazine Skynews or other easily found astronomy magazines. Using sky charts to find objects that I describe in the sky makes the search so much better.
Saturn reaches opposition on the 2nd and 3rd. Remember that it will be very viewable in your telescope now and for the next month. Saturn is just below Ophiuchus and above the star Antares, which is at the top of the constellation Scorpius. It starts being noticeable about an hour after sunset in the south-southeast. The rings are tilted at quite an angle and present a near maximum view – spectacular!
Mars will be at its near maximum size well through June – it’s larger than it has been in nine years. It will fade as the month ends. Mars is to the upper right of Saturn and quite noticeably red at mid-month. Try to see Mars early in the month as it will become lost in evening twilight as the month progresses and we approach the longest day of the year.
Jupiter is a wonderful view, especially with its four easily visible moons dancing around it. Jupiter stays very bright through the month. Jupiter can be found below Leo and to the right of Regulus. The NASA JUNO mission to Jupiter is concentrating on the internal structure of the planet. They are counting on amateur astrophotographers to provide a visual set of information to match the data they collect. I’ll do the best I can to help them out and let you know if I qualify for any big science medals! Images will be important not only before Juno's arrival but also during the planned 20 months of data collection. Jupiter is a favourite object to photograph for many amateurs and will help the scientists to interpret the information they collect.
My favourite, Mercury, can be seen close to the Moon at dawn in the eastern horizon early in this month. Look east very close to sunrise. Watch for the Moon to be close by her on the 2nd and 3rd.
June 17-18: The Moon, Saturn and Mars make a nice lopsided triangle.
June 18-19: Have a look at the Moon and Saturn. They are quite close. The bright star Antares is below and to the right.
June 20: There is a Full Moon at 7:02 pm. Also, summer solstice happens at 6:34 as well. There’s no need to go out and do a pagan dance in the moonlight. Summer has arrived. Dance in the sunlight! This Full Moon is called the Full Strawberry Moon. Since the bears and all other manner of wildlife eat my strawberries and cherries and so on, I’ve given up getting too excited. Good luck to you. The 20th is also the longest day of the year. It’s all downhill from here. Time to chop firewood and get ready for the shortest day of the year (I’m a realist, not a pessimist!).
Get out there and enjoy some of the best deep sky objects (DSOs) that summer has to offer.
Have a good month and if you have any questions or special topics that you would like to see in this column, please email me or make contact though this newspaper.
The Beginner’s Observer’s Guide by Leo Enright is available at the Sharbot Lake Pharmacy or by contacting the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada www.rasc.ca/publications, subscriptions for our very own excellent Canadian astronomy magazine, Sky News, are also available from RASC..