Astronomy: The Week Ahead – Sun 7 Jun to Sat 13 Jun

The recent appearance of the June Full Moon, aka the Strawberry Moon and the Rose Moon, signaled the final full moon of spring.

The recent appearance of the June Full Moon, aka the Strawberry Moon and the Rose Moon, signaled the final full moon of spring.


Sunday June 07

The morning Moon is at 74% illumination, waxing gibbous phase, in the constellation Aquarius. It is bright enough to wash out all but the brightest stars in the area. See if you can find these:

Beta Aquarrii (B) at magnitude 2.87

Delta Capricornus, magnitude 2.84


Monday June 08

Look how the Moon has moved since yesterday morning, deep into Aquarius and away from Capricornus. The constellation Capricornus is due south just before sunrise. Its “smile” shape is distinctive. Look closely at Alpha (A) Capricornus. It is an optical double star, with six arcseconds separation, much like Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper. Can you “split” them easily? This is an “optical” double, not a binary (two stars gravitationally bound together), with the A component 687 light years distant, the B star only 109 light years away.


Tuesday June 09

The Last Quarter Moon occurs today at 8:42 a.m. PDT. You can see it in the predawn sky in eastern Aquarius, approaching the washed out Circlet in Pisces.

The Last Quarter Moon begins a week of dark skies in the evening hours, as we approach New Moon. This lack of moon in the evening sky makes it prime time to hunt “faint fuzzy” objects, like nebulae and galaxies.


Wednesday June 10

Look to the east in the early evening and you’ll see bright Vega in the constellation Lyra, and Saturn low in Libra. Up above them is Arcturus, brightest stars in Bootes.

Bootes constellation shape is shown here, in the image. But it also has an asterism, a shape made by stars that is not a constellation. Look at the part of Bootes leaving off the two spurs that come off Arcturus to its right. What remains, to the left of and including Arcturus, is called The Kite, easily recognizable by its shape.


Thursday June 11

Tonight’s western horizon is graced by Venus and Jupiter as twilight deepens. These are the third and fourth brightest objects in our skies. What are the first and second brightest?

Tonight Venus shines magnitude -4.33, and it is 0.66 AU (1 AU = 93M miles) from Earth. Jupiter is much dimmer at magnitude -1.86, and 5.85 AU from us. Between them rides the orbital path of Mars and the asteroid belt!


Friday June 12

The Zodiacal constellation Libra is rising in the southeast in the early evening. It is easy to find as Saturn is currently in it, and bright Antares is just below Saturn.

Libra is the “Scales”, but in ancient times, it formed the claws of Scorpius the scorpion (of which, Antares is the heart). Libra is another constellation whose Alpha (A) star is dimmer than its Beta (B) star. Here are their names, magnitudes and distances:

A: Zubenelgenubi, 2.75, 77 LY

B: Zubeneschamali, 2.59, 160 LY


Saturday June 13

Libra contains on “bright” globular cluster. But don’t be fooled, this is dimmer than you might think. NGC 5897 has a bright magnitude of 8.4, but its ample size of 13 arcminutes spreads its light out, making it appear dimmer. It is close to the disk of the Milky Way and 40,000 light years away, so perhaps there is also dust obscuring our view.

Happy viewing!