Fred Barrett | May 31, 2017
I had a fellow email me last month asking if a modest size drawing or picture of the night sky for the month of the column could be included to help find the constellations and objects I point out in the column. I’ll see what I can do. The column has limited space and an illustration would eat up some of the limited territory that is set aside for me. I suppose I could tighten things up a little bit. I would love to go out and take a picture of the night sky, just before the start of that month and in time for the column and use it to help you get your bearings. I could also make a drawing for that month if it’s clearer than a photo when printed on newsprint. In the meantime, if you contact me, I will send you what is called a ‘planisphere’. The one I send you won’t have many bells and whistles but it will allow you to rotate a chart of the sky to the date and time you are observing; essentially a star and constellation finder. Let me know and I’ll see what my editor says.
Around 10 pm in early June and earlier as the month progresses, the Summer Triangle rises up from the north-eastern horizon. It is composed of the bright stars Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, Vega (especially bright!) in Lyra and Altair in Aquila. Cygnus is a great cruciform shape and Deneb is situated at its tail. Starting from there, you will find Lyra to its right and Aquila below it.
Summer is essentially here and bug season is upon us! Cover up when you go out but be careful with the bug spray. Most, especially those with DEET, can damage your equipment. The materials in binoculars and telescopes can run, distort and deform if you get the spray fluid on them.
June 1st: first quarter Moon.
June 2nd: Venus rises about 2 hours before sunup and is around 10 degrees high an hour or so later. As the month moves on, it rises about 2 ½ hours before sunrise to about 15 degrees above the horizon.
June 4th: Comet Johnson passes to the east of Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. Remember the rhyme: ‘Follow the arc of the Big Dipper to Arcturus and speed on to Spica’. Spica is in Virgo and that is the direction Comet Johnson is headed later in the month. There are 2 other comets in the sky but to find them requires a more than modest telescope.
June 3rd: The Moon passes just north of Jupiter.
June 8th: The Moon is at Apogee, it’s farthest point from the Earth this month – 252,526 miles or 404,041 kilometers.
June 9th: Full Moon. This month it is called the Full Strawberry Moon. Who can turn down a big helping of strawberry shortcake? It would be berry, berry hard to understand! Watch for Saturn. The Moon passes about 3 degrees north of Saturn at 9 pm.
June 15th: Saturn is at opposition in the southeast. It is at its closest to Earth and at its brightest. The rings are open wider than they’ve been since 2003 and tilted at 27 degrees. Spectacular!
June 17th: Last quarter Moon.
June 20th: Venus is only 2 degrees north of Venus around 5 pm. This is a chance to find and see Venus in daylight.
June 21st: Summer Solstice happens at 12:24 am EDT. Welcome to summer!
June 23rd: The Moon is at perigee, its closest to Earth this month. That distance is 222,412 miles or 355,859 kilometers. New Moon occurs.
June 30th: First quarter Moon.
Keep looking up!
“The Beginners Observing Guide” by Leo Enright is an invaluable companion for adventures in the night sky. It contains star charts and is packed with information. It can be purchased at the Sharbot Lake pharmacy or it can be ordered from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at www.rasc.ca/publications. A subscription to our very own excellent Canadian astronomy magazine “SkyNews”, with its centerfold sky chart, can be ordered at the RASC site as well.
Clear Skies! Fred