Skywatching June 2013


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A snake effigy lies in a floodplain in Southwest Ohio celebrating the summer solstice.

Our ancestors revered the sun.  They knew of its live-giving powers.  In winter the sun makes a low arc across the sky, daylight is short, and in the mid-latitudes the ground is cold and frozen.   In summer the sun rises early, sets later, and makes a high arc across the sky.  The earth is reborn with light and life   Our ancestors recognized the sun’s repeating performance.  For some recognizing and remembering the sun’s seasonal cycles were matters of life.   They created their own markers to commemorate the sun’s life force.   In southwest Ohio, two stone sun serpents lie in a flood plan commemorating the rising positions of the sun at the summer and winter solstices.  The sun reaches its northern point on June 21 at 12:04 a.m.

Date Moon Phase Moonrise Moonset
June 8 New Moon 5:24 a.m. 8:26 p.m.
June 16 First Quarter 12:57 p.m. 12:56 a.m. (6/17)
June 23 Full Moon 8:40 p.m. 6:45 a.m. (6/24)
June 30 Last Quarter 12:07 a.m. 1:40 p.m.

(Times from the U.S. Naval Observatory)

Evening Sky

Brilliant Venus climbs higher into the evening sky during June.  Early in the month, Venus sets about 90 minutes after the sun and increases to about 105 minutes by month’s end.  (For more about Venus as an Evening Star, see this article.) Venus shares the western evening sky with Mercury and Jupiter.

merc_ven_jup_0602

During twilight look for Venus in the west.  During early June, Mercury is about 4 degrees to the upper left of Venus and bright Jupiter is 5 degrees to its lower right.  This giant planet is rapidly moving into the sun’s brightness where it will be  at solar conjunction on June 19.

merc_ven_moon_0610

On June 10, the waxing crescent moon makes a compact grouping with Venus and Mercury.  Look westward during evening twilight.

A few nights later, Mercury reaches its greatest separation from the sun and begins to appear lower in the sky each evening.

ven_merc_0619

By June 19, Mercury and Venus appear less than 2 degrees apart as Mercury moves back into bright twilight and Venus continues to emerge from the sun’s glare.

Meanwhile Saturn is well up in the southeast at sunset.  It is about 12 degrees to the left of Spica (Virgo).

saturn_lune_1306.jpg

On the evenings of June 17-19, the moon moves through the region as shown in the above chart.

Morning Sky

Mars makes its appearance after an April solar conjunction.  By mid-month it passes 6 degrees north of Aldebaran, but this is during bright twilight.  By month’s end it rises 90 minutes before the sun as it approaches Jupiter for a pairing during late July.

Solar System

solar_sys_1306

The chart above shows that naked eye planets on June 15, 2013.  (Click the image to see it larger.) Notice that a line from Earth to Mercury and Venus matches the charts above showing a close pairing of the planets a few days later.  Similarly, a line from Earth to Jupiter goes through the sun, as Jupiter approaches its solar conjunction and it is invisible from our planet.

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