Astronomy: The Week Ahead – Sun 14 Jun to Sat 20 Jun

The week ahead shot


Sunday June 14

Saturn is visible all night long, and makes an excellent easy target. Here it is, showing nice inclination of its rings, and the position of the largest Saturnian moon Titan. Look for the Cassini Division in the rings, a dark gap. Also see if you can pick out the shadow of the rings on the disk of the planet, and of the planet’s shadow on the rings as they curve behind the disk.


Monday June 15

Although we just said goodbye to winter objects and constellations from our evening skies, they’re never for long. Here are two well know ones that are reentering our skies, as morning objects. The Pleiades star cluster, over the northeast horizon, is beautiful in a pair of binoculars. The variable star Algol is fun to watch over several days, as its brightness varies by one magnitude. Watch these objects rise higher in dark morning skies over the upcoming weeks and months.


Tuesday June 16

Today is the last new moon of spring, with summer just days away. A classic summer asterism is now fully risen an hour after sunset, the Summer Triangle, comprising Vega, Deneb and Altair, in the constellations Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila, respectively. If you’re in a dark enough location, you can also see the band of the Milky Way rising across the eastern horizon, most notably through Aquila and Cygnus.


Wednesday June 17

Grab your binoculars when the sky darkens tonight and look southeast. Above Scorpius and its bright star Antares, you’ll see Saturn. Directly above Saturn and slightly to the right of Alpha (A) Seprens is the great globular cluster M5. It will appear as a fuzzy spot in binoculars, and break up into individual stars in telescopes over of over 8 inches.

It is just below naked eye threshold at magnitude 6.6. The cluster is 24,500 light years from us, in our Milky Way galaxy. It spans over 160 light years in diameter, and subtends 23 minutes of sky. Very close by are other “5s” – 5 Serpens is a close by double star, and Palomar 5 a very dim globular cluster!


Thursday June 18

The eastern morning sky can lead you to a telescopic view of the planet Uranus. Easy to find by star hopping it is directly over the eastern horizon. Find the bright star Menkar in Cetus, due east. Above it are two bright stars in Aries. Hop from them on a line to a dimmer star in the V of Pisces, then again about the same distance to a star nearly as bright. Just below, you’ll find a dim star, with Uranus, glowing with a distinct blue hue, very nearby.


Friday June 19

Tonight and tomorrow night the moon, Jupiter and Venus put on a great show. The moon will be a 3-1/2 day old waxing crescent, thin but easy to see. Venus will be brilliant, almost directly over the moon, with Jupiter ten o’clock from Venus. All will be bracketed by the Zodiacal constellations Leo and Gemini.

Get out and have a look tonight and tomorrow night, then watch Venus and Jupiter head closer and closer to conjunction at the end of the month.


Saturday June 20

This is the last day of spring, so let’s celebrate it by looking at the constellation most associated with the bounty of the season, Virgo. It has transited the southern horizon after sunset, and is headed swiftly to the sunlit western horizon. Its bright stars Spica is easy to see.

The other stars are not are readily viewed unless in dark skies. A great arc exists, defined by the stars Zaijava, Porrima, and Vindemiatrix. Cupped between them and Denebola, the tail star of Leo, is The Realm Of The Galaxies, made up of the Great Virgo Cluster. Hunting in this area with binoculars or a telescope in dark skies will reveal a true bounty of galaxies.

Happy viewing!