Last modified: Thursday, May 31, 2007
Jupiter rules the night during June
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Jupiter, the giant of the solar system, will be visible almost all night as it crosses the southern sky during June. Unfortunately, the huge planet will be unusually low, still easy to see but not as spectacular as it would be if it were higher, where its light would have less of Earth's atmosphere to penetrate.
Jupiter will reach opposition (opposite the sun as seen from Earth) on June 5, when it will be brightest. Accompanying the planet nearby on its lower right (south) will be orange Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius. The contrast in colors between these two brilliant objects will be a treat in itself.
Venus will be a dazzling white "evening star" in the west during June, the first planet to become visible after sunset. The bright stars Pollux and Castor of the constellation Gemini the Twins will form a nearly straight line with Venus to the planet's right (north) early in June. By June 12, Venus will be in the same field of view as the Beehive star cluster in the constellation Cancer the Crab.
At the beginning of the month, Mercury will appear as an extra "star" in Gemini, below Pollux and Castor but outshining both of them. Mercury will fade during the next week, however, as it moves higher in Gemini.
Saturn will rapidly catch up with Venus during June until the two finally "meet" on June 30, when they will be closest. Their rendezvous will be in the constellation Leo the Lion, with Leo's brightest star, Regulus, close by on the upper left (south). This will be Saturn's last major event before it slips into evening twilight during the summer. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, will be north of the planet on June 11/12 and 27/28 and south of it on June 3/4 and 19/20.
Mars will still be faint during June, but it is gradually becoming easier to spot. It will rise around 3:30 a.m. local time in the constellation Pisces the Fish.
Viewing information and graphics for the planets are available at http://www.space.com/spacewatch.
The brightest star high in the east-northeast after dark in June will be Vega. The brightest star to its lower left (north), by two or three fist-widths at arm's length, will be Deneb. About the same distance to Vega's lower right (south) will be Altair rising in the east. These three stars form the huge Summer Triangle, which will cross the sky high overhead during the night. Details about the Summer Triangle and what it encloses can be found at http://www.idialstars.com/stri.htm.
The sun will reach the June solstice on June 21 at 2:06 p.m. EDT (18:06 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 June solstice is sometimes called Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe. Most societies in the Northern Hemisphere, ancient and modern, have celebrated a festival on or close to the June solstice. The themes common to all of these festivals are fertility and agriculture.
"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words that mean "cause the sun to stand still." This is because the summer sun climbs to a higher point in the southern sky each day until the solstice. On the day of the solstice it appears to arrive at about the same maximum height above the horizon as the day before, and in the days afterward its maximum point is lower, dropping back toward its lowest point at the winter solstice. In this sense, the sun "stands still" at the peak of its journey across the summer sky before it starts downward again toward the southern horizon.
The moon will be at third quarter on June 8, new on June 14, at first quarter on June 22 and full on June 30.