Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2002
Venus and Jupiter meet in the evening
The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will have an eye-catching encounter in the western sky after sunset during the first week of June, and they will continue to be an impressive sight for the rest of the month.
To see them, simply look westward as soon as the sky has darkened, about 45 minutes after sunset. The only requirement is a clear view of the west-northwestern sky, since the planets will be rather low. Both are a brilliant white, but Venus will easily outshine Jupiter. Above them will be the much fainter stars Pollux and Castor of the constellation Gemini the Twins.
Venus and Jupiter will be closest on the evening of June 3, when they will be separated by less than the width of a finger held at arm's length. Jupiter is almost five times farther from us than Venus, but they will be almost lined up in the sky as seen from Earth. As the month advances, the gap between the two planets will widen daily. By the end of June, Jupiter will be sinking into the glow of sunset, while Venus will be a lovely "evening star."
Mercury will appear very low in the east-southeast an hour to 45 minutes before sunrise during the second half of June. It will be highest on June 21.
Mars will be barely visible very low in the west-northwest about an hour after sunset, dropping lower each night. This faint orange object may require binoculars.
Saturn will be out of sight in the solar glare during June as it passes behind the sun. It will reappear in the morning sky in July.
Viewing information and graphics are available at http://www.space.com/spacewatch/.
On June 10-11, the moon will pass between Earth and the sun, causing an annular eclipse of the sun that will be visible to travelers in parts of the Pacific Ocean if weather permits. In an annular eclipse, the moon is not quite large enough to cover the sun completely, so a ring of bright sunlight glows around the black moon at the maximum point of the eclipse.
The path of the annular eclipse will cross the International Date Line. Because of this, a partial eclipse will be visible to observers in regions of Southeast Asia and Australia on June 11 and in North and Central America on June 10. The event will not be visible in South America, Europe or Africa.
More information about the entire eclipse, including when it will be visible in particular locations, is available at http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/ASE2002/ASE2002.html.
Instructions for how to view a solar eclipse safely can be found at http://www.mreclipse.com/Totality/TotalityCh11.html.
The moon will pass in front of (occult) Mars on June 12. In this interesting event, a bright star or planet disappears behind the moon and then pops out again a few minutes later. Mars will be blocked for observers in parts of China, Russia, Alaska, Canada and the northeastern United States. Information about where and when to watch is available at http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/planets2002/planets2002.htm.
The sun will reach the June solstice on June 21 at 8:24 a.m. CDT (14:24 Universal Time), marking the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. For the next six months in the Northern Hemisphere the days will be getting shorter.
The moon will be at last quarter on June 2, new on June 10, at first quarter on June 17 and full on June 24.