Thursday, June 1, 2017

Look At The Sky: June

The Planets for June:
Mercury - tiny Mercury is far too close to the sun for viewing all of June, moving northward toward the sun (as seen from Earth) each successive day of June, thus remaining masked in strong solar glare - in TAURUS

Venus - our brightest planet will be high in the dark sky about 4 a.m. local time; make sure to look for Venus VERY close to much dimmer and distant URANUS in the mornings of the first week of this month.  It will be due east and in the same finder field of view on the morning of June 2, but Venus will be moving slowly northward relative to Uranus each successive morning.  Brilliant Venus is minus 4.4 magnitude, far brighter than telescopic Uranus at only magnitude 6.  Venus is 55% illuminated as we see it from Earth and thus presents a "quarter moon" appearance - in PISCES

Mars - tiny this month and in solar conjunction, Mars is not a viewable object until 2018 - in GEMINI

Jupiter - dominating the evening western skies is bright Jupiter, still large and favorable for viewing until it sets about midnight.  It is high overhead at evening's dusk and low in western skies by dark this month - in VIRGO

Saturn - appearing as a very brilliant yellow star, Saturn is nearly overhead for northern observers at midnight and reaches OPPOSITION on June 16....a very favorable June 2017 for viewing this magnificent planet.  Rising in the east at sundown, this is a perfect target for all star parties, although a very low southerly opposition for northern observers - in OPHIUCHUS

Uranus - distant planet Uranus rises about 3 a.m. local time and shines at magnitude 5.9, bright enough to spot in good binoculars if one knows where to look; use a good planetarium sky program or GO TO telescope to locate this distant world; by sunrise it is high in eastern skies and will show a faint, blue disk in large telescopes.  NOTE:  see VENUS above - in PISCES

Neptune - look for faint Neptune in large telescopes at midmonth rising about 1:30 a.m. local time; in PISCES

Pluto - at magnitude 14.1, our most distant planet ( is a planet) is very low in southern skies, south of overhead about 3:30 a.m. local time; only 12 inch and larger telescopes can spot this world visually. - in SAGITTARIUS

Comet Possibilities for June:

There are dozens of observable comets visible every month, in every part of the sky.  A moderate-sized telescope and CCD camera can easily record comets down to magnitude 18, of which there will be a good selection every night, provided that you know WHERE in the sky they are.  Thus a good PC planetarium program with your GO TO telescope or to plot visually is essential.  The comets can be updated in your programs daily by downloading the current data into your database from the Minor Planet Center (MPC) via the link:
This will allow access to all visible comets for any given date.

COMET 2015 V2 (Johnson) - This comet has exceeded all expectations and it will transit just south of overhead at 08:30 local time in the constellation of VIRGO; the comet is expected to be visible easily in binoculars with a long SE streaming tail; at best the comet may reach naked eye visibility as it moves closer to the sun.

METEOR SHOWERS for June 2017:

Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen!  For June, there are no less than 13 (!!) meteor showers, some of which provide for wonderful spring sky shows, provided that the light of the moon does not interfere.  However, as with a months and times during the year, observers should always be aware that new sporadic meteor showers can occur at anytime from seemingly unknown sources and radiants.

June 3 - Tau Herculid Meteors - Beginning in late may and extending through June, this is a month-long minor meteor shower, overhead for mid-northern latitudes at about 10 a.m.; this will be a poor month for observing these meteors, since the moon will be gibbous and in the sky all night;  the meteor shower is overhead at midnight when most of the 15 meteors per hours might be seen.  

June 4 - Alpha Circinid Meteors - This southern hemisphere meteor shower does produce some long-trailed meteors that can be seen low in northern hemisphere skies, traveling from south to north; it was discovered in 1977 by Australian amateur astronomers when 15 very swift meteors were noted per hour; for southern latitudes north of the equator, the meteor shower radiant is actually above the southern horizon at Midnight, so only the brightest meteors can be seen....this shower is in need of observation and continued confirmation.  The moon will hamper observations this year.

June 5 - Scorpiid Meteors - A very interesting meteor shower with TWO radiants rather than just one as is typically found with annual meteor showers; both radiants are nearly on the meridian at midnight, so observers are suggested to put their feet to the south and look overhead for these meteors; about 3 a.m. local time (the moon will be strong in the sky all night this year!...); in dark skies observers should normally see at least 20 meteors per hour when the moon is absent.  Note that not only are the number of meteors impressive with this shower, but also the sky itself, since the meteors will be coming from near the summer Milky Way star clouds, revealing one of the richest star fields visible to the naked eye and camera.  Best to begin observations about 10 p.m. and continue until 3 a.m. local time; radiant average is at R.A. 16h 40m; DEC -17 degrees.   .

June 7 - Arietid Meteors - From the constellation of Aries, this is another month-long meteor shower, and can peak on this date with as many as 60 meteors per hour in dark skies. This has been confirmed by radar, but less than that number can be expected visually, perhaps up to 30.  Wait until about 3 a.m. local time to assure that the radiant (low on the eastern horizon) is high enough above local haze and moisture to reveal these meteors.  These are very fine, slow meteors which leave spectacular trains, and frequently split into Bolides, or "fireballs."  The fireballs should be easily seen in all areas of the sky, although the radiant is nearly overhead about the time of peak. This is a great year to attempt to observe these meteors since the moon is near new....... the fireballs can typically be seen in spite of bright moonlight.

June 7 - Zeta Perseid Meteors - On the same night as the Arietids, this meteor shower is less spectacular, with perhaps 15 per hour visible in earliest pre-dawn skies; radar reveals as many as 40 per hour after sunrise.

June 8 - Librid Meteors - A very minor meteor shower from a very large constellation, expect only a few per hour; evidence suggests that this meteor cloud might be dissipating, and no known cometary source is associated with this minor display; observations are badly needed.  Coordinates of radiant:  R.A. 15h 09m; DEC -28 degrees.  The moon will interfere with observations this year.

June 11 - Sagittariid Meteors - This is a two-week-long meteor shower beginning in early June; unfortunately in 2017, the full moon will be a factor in observing these meteors. The radiant rises in the extreme SE sky about 11 p.m. local time and about a dozen meteors per hour in dark skies might be expected.   VERY low in the southern skies for northern observers, at -35 degrees DEC.

June 13 - Theta Ophiuchid Meteors - Coming from the border of Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, and Scorpius, this radiant rises about 9 p.m., giving a window of good observing ALL NIGHT in spite of strong moonlight;  hence, only the brighter members of this shower will be seen this year.  However, those that do grace our skies are bright and spectacular, so be alert to these meteors if you are observing and happen upon a fireball from this area.

June 16 - June Lyrid Meteors - This is a companion meteor shower to the more-active May Lyrid meteors; this year will be an excellent year for the June Lyrids, since the moon will be quarter and will interfere with this meteor shower after midnight.   The radiant is nearly directly overhead at midnight near the bright star Vega for mid-northern latitudes; since most of these meteors are very faint, observations will be poor this year with strong moonlight interfering.  This is but one of many meteor showers that have been discovered by amateur astronomers since 1960....this one has been seen every year since 1966.

June 20 - Ophiuchid Meteors - A very good year for this shower, since the moon is now a thin crescent and rising just hours before dawn.  The radiant rises highest in the sky at 11:25 p.m. local time.  The radiant sets about sun-up, so few meteors should be seen throughout our skies throughout this year's "window"; this is an interesting meteor shower since the number per hour can vary from as few as 8 per hour to over 26 per hour on any given year.

June 26 - Corvid Meteors - Very good prospects this year, since the  moon's light will be absent from the sky and rising only a short time before dawn.  This is one of the shortest duration of all meteor showers, lasting only 5 days at most, with perhaps 10 meteors per hour seen to any observer; these originate near the small constellation trapezoid of Corvus, the Crow and the last good showing was in 1937.  Astronomers speculate that these meteors are a product of some as-yet undiscovered comet.  Since it has been years since a good showing and since the source is unknown, this is a very important meteor shower for a group project.  Radiant: R.A. 12h 48m; DEC -19 degrees.

June 29 - Beta Taurid Meteors - Here is a different type of meteor you CAN'T see~!  This is a daylight meteor storm that is of interest to those with ham radios, or those with long-distance shortwave receivers tuned to a distant station toward the direction of the radiant (Taurus. R.A. 05h 44m; DEC +19 degrees); ham operators have recorded a dependable 30+ meteors per hour each year. least the moon can't interfere with THIS one!

June 30 - June Draconid Meteors - This is a fair year for observers this month in terms of sky position because moonlight will light the sky in early evening hours.   Known in the past as the "Pons-Winnecke Meteors" (from the comet of origin), this can be an incredibly spectacular meteor shower; in 1916 over 100 very bright meteors were seen in fireworks style, but it appears that the numbers may be waning as years progress.  Being irregular, observers are cautioned that there may be as few as 10 per hour or well over 100 per hour; with the high declinations (radiant:  R.A. 15h 12m, DEC +49 degrees), the shower will rise about the beginning of astronomical darkness and be in the sky all night long, highest just after midnight in high northern skies.  A fair year for this one.... but look for the brighter ones maybe high in northern skies!

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