Some daily events in the changing sky for June 19 – 27.
Friday, June 19
Saturday, June 20
Mercury in turn is just 0.2° from Epsilon Tauri, magnitude +3.5, in the Hyades. Can you see this star? It marks the upper tip of the "V" shape of the Hyades emerging from the sunrise for the year. First-magnitude Aldebaran 3° below them marks the V's southern tip. See the illustration above.
Rouse the other members of the party to take a look. Welcome to summer.
Sunday, June 21
Monday, June 22
Tuesday, June 23
Wednesday, June 24
It wasn't always so. Prior to July 2000, Delta Scorpii was slightly fainter than Beta above it. Delta's major flareup lasted five years, then the star faded partway down again (see light curve at the AAVSO). To me it looks suspiciously bright again. See our previous article with labeled photo.
Thursday, June 25
Friday, June 26
Saturday, June 27
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
During the second half of June, six of the seven planets (not counting Earth) are positioned at dawn within a 100° span of sky, from low in the east to fairly high in the south. From left to right they're Mercury, the Venus-Mars pair, Uranus, and the Jupiter-Neptune pair.
This comes 25 years after very the rare gathering of all seven planets — and then-planet Pluto — into a span of only 60° in January 1984.
Mercury (about magnitude 0) is having a poor apparition deep in the glow of dawn. Look for it in morning twilight about 25° lower left of Venus and Mars. Binoculars will help.
Venus and Mars (magnitudes –4.3 and +1.1, respectively) remain together due east during dawn. Venus is a dazzler; Mars is 150 times fainter. They're only 2° or 3° apart this week, hardly more than a finger's width at arm's length. June 22nd is their conjunction date, when they're separated by 2.0°. Look for Mars to Venus's upper left early in the week, and directly above Venus later.
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 Mars is currently farther from Earth.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, 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 still fairly high in the west at dusk, but it sinks lower as the evening advances. In a telescope Saturn's rings are narrowing again, appearing only about 3.5° from edge on. And see how they've dimmed! The caption at right tells why.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) is between Venus and Jupiter before dawn.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) remains only 3/4° from Jupiter, but it's 16,000 times fainter. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
Pluto (14th magnitude, in northwestern Sagittarius) is highest in the south around midnight or 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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