Some daily events in the changing sky for June 12 – 20.
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.
Sunday, June 14
Monday, June 15
Tuesday, June 16
Wednesday, June 17
Thursday, June 18
Friday, June 19
Saturday, June 20
Mercury this morning is in turn just 0.2° from Epsilon Tauri, magnitude +3.5, in the Hyades. Will binoculars show this star? It marks the upper tip of the "V" shape of the Hyades emerging from the sunrise. First-magnitude Aldebaran 3° below marks the Hyades' southern tip. See the illustration at right.
Rouse other members of the party to take a look. Welcome to summer.
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, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury (about magnitude 0) is having a poor apparition deep in the glow of dawn. Look for it in morning twilight about 23° lower left of Venus. Binoculars will help.
Venus and Mars (magnitudes –4.4 and +1.1, respectively) remain together due east during dawn. Venus is a dazzler; Mars is 150 times fainter. Look for Mars to Venus's left or upper left by only 3° or 2° this week, hardly more than a finger's width at arm's length. They're in conjunction, 2.0° apart, on the morning of June 22nd.
Four reasons combine to create their great disparity in brightness. Mars is farther from the Sun so it's illuminated less brightly than Venus, Mars is a smaller planet, its surface is darker and less reflective than Venus's white clouds, and it's currently farther from Earth.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in Capricornus) now rises before midnight and shines brightly in the south by dawn. The sharpest telescopic glimpses may come during morning twilight, when the atmospheric seeing sometimes turns very steady.
Saturn (magnitude +1.0, in Leo) is in the southwest at dusk and sinks lower in the west as the evening advances. In a telescope Saturn's rings are beginning to narrow again, appearing only about 3.5° from edge on. And see how they're dimming! 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) appears only 3/4° from Jupiter, but it's 15,000 times fainter. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
Pluto (14th magnitude, in northwestern Sagittarius) is highest in the south around 1 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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