Some daily events in the changing sky for June 5 – 13.
Friday, June 5
Saturday, June 6
Sunday, June 7
Monday, June 8
Tuesday, June 9
Wednesday, June 10
Thursday, June 11
Friday, June 12
Saturday, June 13
How late in the season can you continue to see Capella? This depends entirely on your latitude. North of latitude 46° (Seattle, Quebec City, central France) the star is circumpolar and never sets at all.
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand and a curious mind." Without these, they note, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is both faint and buried deep in the glow of sunrise, very far lower left of Venus. Good luck.
Venus (magnitude –4.4, near the Pisces-Aries border) shines brightly due east during dawn. In a telescope Venus appears about half lit. It's at western elongation from the Sun on June 5th (46° from the Sun), but it generally appears exactly half lit (at dichotomy) several days before. The best telescopic views of Venus come in full early-morning daylight, when the planet is higher in steadier air.
Mars (magnitude +1.1, in Aries) has closed to within only about 4° to Venus's left. But it's 160 times fainter! There are four reasons for this: Mars is farther from the Sun so it gets illuminated less brightly, it's a smaller planet than Venus, its surface is darker than Venus's white clouds, and it's currently farther from Earth.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in Capricornus) shines brightly in the southeast before and during dawn, high enough now for good telescopic observing. The sharpest glimpses may come during morning twilight, when the atmospheric seeing sometimes turns very steady.
Saturn (magnitude +0.9, in Leo) is now in the southwest at dusk. It moves lower to the west later in the evening. Regulus, not quite as bright, sparkles 15° to its lower right.
In a telescope Saturn's rings appear only 4° from edge on. And see how they've dimmed! The caption at right tells why.
Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is between Venus and Jupiter before dawn.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) still appears less than 1° from Jupiter, though it's 15,000 times dimmer. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
Pluto (14th magnitude, in northwestern Sagittarius) is highest in the south around 1 or 2 a.m. See the finder chart in the June Sky & Telescope, page 53.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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