Skynotes June 2017

Month Highlights

The two gas giants can be found in the evening sky at sunset. Jupiter is high in the north-east, while Saturn is lower down towards the eastern horizon. Saturn is at its best this month, as it reaches opposition on the 15th.

In the morning sky, Venus steals the show with its brilliance, high in the north-east. Also in the north-east but much closer to the horizon is the faint planet Mercury .

Sunrise & Sunset Times

  Rise Set
Thursday 1st 7:26 5:09
Sunday 11th 7:32 5:07
Wednesday 21st 7:35 5:08
Friday 30th 7:36 5:11

Moon Phases

First Quarter Thursday 1st
Full Moon Friday 9th
Last Quarter Saturday 17th
New Moon Saturday 24th

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Friday 9th, at a distance of 406,401 km.

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Friday 23rd, at a distance of 357,937 km.

Let The Moon Be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • The First Quarter Moon sits to the left of Regulus (Leo, the lion) after sunset on the 1st.
  • On the 4th, the waxing gibbous Moon is near Jupiter.
  • The Moon is at the head of Scorpius and near the red supergiant star Antares on the 8th.
  • The Full Moon rises with Saturn after sunset on the 9th.
  • The bright star sitting high above the Moon on the morning of the 16th is Fomalhaut (Pisces Austrinus).
  • The thin crescent Moon sits just above Venus on the morning of the 21st.
  • Before sunrise on the 23rd, the waning crescent Moon is below the red giant star Aldebaran (Taurus, the bull).
  • After sunset on the 28th, the waxing crescent Moon is back with Regulus.
  • On the 30th, the Moon is in line with Jupiter and the bright star Spica (Virgo, the maiden).

Planets

Mercury can be seen during the first half of the month, towards the north-east horizon before sunrise. Brilliant Venus sits just above and to the left of Mercury. On the 11th, Mercury sits to the left of the red star Aldebaran (Taurus, the bull) as they pass each other in the morning sky.

Venus looks fantastic, shining brilliantly in the north-east before sunrise. The planet has a close encounter with the crescent Moon on the morning of the 21st.

Earth experiences the Winter Solstice on Wednesday 21st. At 2:24pm, the Sun has reached its furthest north for the year and begins moving southward (as viewed from Earth). From Melbourne, the Sun travels low across the sky and it is our shortest day, with just 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight.

Mars is too close to the Sun to be seen this month.

Jupiter continues to shine brilliantly in the north-east after sunset. It is paired with the bright star Spica (Virgo, the maiden), which sits to the right of Jupiter. On the 4th, the Moon is just below Jupiter.

Saturn reaches opposition on the 15th, which means that it is opposite the Sun and Saturn will rise at sunset and set at sunrise. Opposition is also the best time to see Saturn because it will be closest to Earth and therefore shining at its best. On the 9th, the Full Moon (which is also in opposition) rises with Saturn in the east at sunset.

Meteors

There are a number of meteor showers occurring in Scorpius and Sagittarius this month. Although low in number (less than 10 per hour) the shower members can often be spectacular, appearing slow and bright with many displaying a yellow/orange colour. The best time to see meteors is after midnight.

Stars & Constellations

Low in the west we have our last look at Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Its constellation of Canis Major (the great dog) will soon disappear from our sky for the winter.

Above and to the south of Sirius is the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus in Carina (the keel). Looking further south and low to the horizon you may be able to identify the bright star Achernar in Eridanus (the river) at its lowest point in the sky. Directly above Achernar, the Southern Cross reaches its highest point and remains there majestically during the winter months.

Looking eastward, the bright red star Antares, in the constellation of Scorpius (the scorpion), can be seen. Below it lies the teapot shape of Sagittarius (the archer). The region around Sagittarius is a rich area of the sky to explore with binoculars. It points towards the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, which lies 26 000 light years away and contains a supermassive black hole.

International Space Station

From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

6:53am – 7:00am, Sunday 1st June.

The Station will appear in the west and travel past Saturn and the Southern Cross before disappearing in the south-east.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On This Day

1st 2002, the Czech Republic becomes the first country to ban light pollution.

1st 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander was the first spacecraft to scoop Martian soil.

6th 1971, Soyuz 11 (USSR) was launched. It carried the first people to a space station (Soviet Salyut 1).

10th 2003, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (USA) was launched.

11th 1985, a balloon (from Vega 1, USSR) is used to explore another planet, Venus.

13th 2010, the Hayabusa (Japan) spacecraft returned the first asteroid samples to Earth.

14th 1965, Mariner 4 (USA) returns the first close-up images of Mars.

15th 1999, a near-miss for the International Space Station as space debris passes just 7 km from the station.

16th 1963, Valentina V. Tereshkova (USSR) launched on Vostok 6 becomes the first woman in space.

18th 1983, Sally Ride is the first US woman in space (on the space shuttle Challenger).

20th 1939, Germany launches the first liquid-fuel rocket plane.

21st 2004, SpaceShipOne (USA) launched to become the first privately-funded human space flight.

22nd 1978, Dr James W. Christy (USA) discovers Pluto’s satellite Charon.

30th 1971, the Soyuz 11 (USSR) three-man crew die upon re-entry to Earth.

30th 1908, a meteor explodes over Tunguska, Russia, destroying 2,200 km² of forest.

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