Thursday, May 31, 2012

Astronomy: The June Adirondack Night Sky

Here are some objects for the unaided eye for the month of June. All of these objects, although small, should be visible without the help of binoculars or a telescope, so long as you have clear dark skies.

Light pollution is a killer for seeing these objects with your unaided eye. To find out how dark your location is, use the Google Map Overlay of light pollution. If you are in a blue, gray or black area then you should have dark enough skies. Planets and the moon can be seen in red, and orange zones.

You can find help locating the night sky objects listed below by using one of the free sky charts at Skymaps.com (scroll down to Northern Hemisphere Edition and click on the PDF for June 2012). The map shows what is in the sky in June at 10 pm for early June; 9 pm for late June.

If you are not familiar with what you see in the night sky, this is a great opportunity to step outside, look up, and begin learning the constellations. The sky is beautiful and filled with many treasures just waiting for you to discover them. Once you have looked for these objects go through the list again if you have a pair of binoculars handy, the views get better!

Note: Measuring Degrees with your hands, proportionally works for people of all ages. With your arm fully extended out:

Width of your pinky finger is 1°

Width of your ring, middle, and index finger equals 5°

Width of your fist equals 10°

Width from tip to tip of index finger and pinky finger stretched out equals 15°

Width from tip to tip of your thumb and pinky finger stretched out equals 25°

 

Highlights for the month of June

In May I wrote an article about the Transit of Venus, on June 5th, and the events in Tupper Lake being put together by the wonderful people of the Adirondack Public Observatory for this rare transit. You can find more information in the links provided. This is the last chance for any currently living human to witness the transit. Even if we happen to get clouded in the APO has events planned along with a live view of the transit via NASA’s live stream.

The June Bootid Meteor Shower, on June 27th, is a very hard one to predict. Predictions for this one range from 0-100 meteors per hour. The moon will only be at 48% full, and will set around midnight allowing a few hours of good viewing for the meteor shower before sunrise. This meteor shower was thought to have been extinct with no activity for decades, until there were observations of up to 100 in 1998. Very unpredictable, but I can’t think of a better excuse to get out and lay underneath dark Adirondack skies on a nice warm June night.
The Moon

June 1st – The Moon passes 7° south of Saturn

June 4th – Full Moon, and possible sighting of a partial Lunar Eclipse as the moon sets early morning.

June 11th – Last Quarter Moon

June 17th – Early morning a waning crescent Moon will be only 2° apart.

June 19th – New Moon, best night to get out and enjoy the stars without the moon’s light washing out the dimmer stars in the sky.

June 26th – First Quarter Moon and the Moon passes 6° south of Mars.

June 28th – The moon makes another close pass this month to Saturn, this time at 6° south of the ringed planet.

 

Mercury

Starting on June 7th Mercury will be 6° above the horizon in the west-northwestern sky 30 minutes after sunset. All throughout the month of June, Mercury slowly climbs higher in the night sky. In the beginning of the month the planet will shine at a bright magnitude of -1.1 which will make it easy to spot in the twilight sky, but as it climbs throughout the month it will get a bit dimmer, at a magnitude of 0.4 against the dark night sky. By June 30th Mercury reaches it’s greatest elongation and will be 26° above the horizon.

Venus

Venus is no longer visible after sunset as it’s approaching the transit. Venus will pass between the sun and Earth, and with the proper equipment, and saftey, you can watch. As stated earlier you can attend two events in Tupper Lake; on June 4th to learn about the transit of Venus, and June 5th to watch the transit take place.

Quickly after the transit Venus starts to climb in the eastern sky in the mornings. By mid-month it will emerge into the twilight before sunrise.

Mars

During the month of June, Mars takes a different motion through the sky than some of the other planets we watch like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Mars will be heading in an eastward direction from southern Leo into western Virgo by June 21st. You may not notice this from just a couple nights of looking, but if you keep track of it for a week you will notice it’s rapid eastward motion.

Saturn

Saturn gets a bit dimmer throughout the this month as Earth and Saturn get further apart in their orbits. It’s yellow glow is still prominent, and helps it stand out from Virgos brightest star, Spica.

Jupiter

Early morning on June 14th, along with Venus, is Jupiter which can be seen a little more than an hour before sunrise. Venus will be rising 40 minutes after Jupiter in the rapidly increasing sunlight.

Photo Above: Flier for the Transit of Venus event at Tupper Lake from the Adirondack Public Observatory website.

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Although he now lives in Clinton County, amateur astronomer Michael Rector has fond memories of spending time at Great Sacandaga and West Canada Lake where the skies are dark and the Milky Way is bright.

Michael writes about astronomy on his own blog Adirondack Astronomy and is interested in getting together with other star-gazers around the region. If you are interested in getting together for an occasional star party feel free to contact him at [email protected]









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