Venus and fading Mercury are drawing closer....

Venus and fading Mercury are drawing closer together.

Sky & Telescope

Friday, June 14

  • The waxing crescent Moon hangs to the lower left of Regulus and the Sickle of Leo this evening.
  • With the solstice a week away, have you been watching the sunset point on your horizon day by day? See the June Sky & Telescope, page 50, for more on watching the reality of the solstice.

    Saturday, June 15

  • Mercury is drawing closer to Venus as it fades in the twilight, as shown at right. They're 3.3° apart now and will be 2° from each other at their closest on the 19th.

    Sunday, June 16

  • First-quarter Moon (exact at 1:24 p.m. EDT). The Moon shines under the dim head of Virgo.

    Watch the gibbous Moon pass Spica and Saturn. The Moons here are plotted for the middle of North America. They are three times actual size.

    Alan MacRobert

    Monday, June 17

  • The Moon this evening forms the end of a curving line with Spica and Saturn, counting to the Moon's left. Look below the Moon for the four-star figure of Corvus.

    Tuesday, June 18

  • The Moon now shines just below the line between Spica and Saturn.

    Wednesday, June 19

  • Dim little Mercury is closest to bright Venus low in twilight this evening. Look for it 2° to Venus's lower left.
  • Saturn glows to the upper right of the waxing gibbous Moon as night falls.

    Thursday, June 20

  • Look lower left of the Moon at dusk, by almost two fists at arm's lengths, for orange-red Antares. Between them is the three-star row of the Head of Scorpius, nearly vertical.
  • This is Midsummer's Night, the shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The solstice is at 1:04 a.m. on the 21st EDT; 10:04 p.m. on the 20th PDT. Wrote a friend in the Pacific Northwest, "There'll be bonfires from Kalaloch to Portland tonight."

    Mercury is fading and dropping day by day. Use binoculars in bright twilight.

    Sky & Telescope

    Friday, June 21

  • Antares shines lower right of the bright Moon this evening.

    Saturday, June 22

  • Now that it's summer, the Summer Triangle is high in full glory after dusk. Its top star is bright Vega high in the east. The brightest star to Vega's lower left is Deneb. Farther to Vega's lower right is Altair. The Summer Triangle is big: 35° long.
  • The largest full Moon of 2013 rises around sunset and shines all night. On Sunday night it'll be almost as full and almost as large for the longitudes of the Americas. (The Moon is exactly full at 7:32 a.m. Sunday morning EDT.) In both cases, however, the "supermoon" is only a trace larger than an average Moon: 7% larger in diameter.

    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 the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).

    Pocket Sky Atlas

    The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6 — which may sound like a lot, but that's less than one star in an entire telescopic field of view, on average. By comparison, Sky Atlas 2000.0 plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5, typically one or two stars per telescopic field. Both atlases include many hundreds of deep-sky targets — galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae — to hunt among the stars.

    Sky & Telescope

    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 the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.

    You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.

    Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their invaluable 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."

    This Week's Planet Roundup

    Venus (magnitude – 3.8) is gaining altitude very gradually, low in evening twilight. Look for it in the west-northwest. Mercury has closed to just 2° or 3° from Venus, but Mercury is fading fast: from magnitude +0.6 on the 15th to +1.6 on the 22nd. Look for it to Venus's upper left (for mid-northern observers) early in the week, directly left around June 16th and 17th, and below Venus by the 20th.

    Mars and Jupiter are hidden in the glare of the Sun.

    Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Libra) glows in the south to southwest during evening, with slightly dimmer Spica 12° to its right or lower right. Look almost as far to Saturn's left or lower left for Alpha Librae.

    See our telescopic guide "Scrutinizing Saturn" in the May Sky & Telescope, page 50, or the shorter version on our website. And identify Saturn's many moons at any time and date with our SaturnMoons utility or handier app.

    Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is in the east just before the beginning of dawn. Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is in the southeast before dawn. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

    All descriptions that relate to your horizon — 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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