The month of June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess who was the wife of Zeus and queen of the gods. According to the myth, Juno had the power to see through a veil of clouds that Zeus set up, so our last mission to Jupiter was named Juno, as she is doing the same thing today.
June always marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. It will be at 6:07 on 21 June this year.
We should get much warmer nights this month, but they will also be shorter because of the high sun angle. There are many interesting highlights this month, including good performances by all five of the brightest planets Saturn encounters on June 27th. There will also be some close conjunctions with the Moon and as a nice bonus the brightest asteroid named Vesta. will compete against June 1
Venus reaches its highest altitude on June 6 at 28 degrees above the horizon. It will then be set at about 10:30, which is about as late as it was ever possible. Venus will be reduced from 80 percent to 70 percent this month. Venus, now in Gemini, the twins, will be almost equally in touch with Castor and Pollux on June 8, and, if she travels farther east along the ecliptic, close to the open star cluster Beehive in Cancer on June 20 Summer begins.
The hive cluster is one of the closest open star clusters to Earth. It is visible to the naked eye as a faint spot about three times as wide as the full moon, but if you know more about it, it becomes much more interesting. It has over 1000 stars and spans about 30 light-years of the sky at a distance of 600 light-years. The Beehive cluster is related to the nearby Hyaur cluster in the Taurus, as they both share a common origin in space within our galaxy, based on their age and proper motion in the galaxy. The Beehive cluster is only 600 million years old, which is pretty young. Our own sun and earth are about eight times older. At that time, no fish had appeared in our oceans. Only a few primitive jellyfish existed.
Jupiter is still high and bright in our eastern evening sky. The other night, at 9:00 pm, I saw Venus about as high above the western horizon as Jupiter as it rose above the eastern horizon. That was 25 degrees. In the middle was a moon of the first quarter. About the same setup will happen again on the 20th of June, the first quarter moon.
Jupiter is getting a bit weaker and farther away, but is still much closer and brighter than usual. She will finish her retrograde loop in Libra on July 9, two months after her opposition last month on May 9th. Look at all four of their bright moons with only binoculars.
Saturn will encounter resistance in Sagittarius Constellation On June 27th, the same day, the full moon will only be one degree above the ringed planet. This is a promising way to mark his opposition this year. The rings of Saturn are now tilted nearly 26 degrees, about as far as possible from our line of sight. With Saturn now closest and brightest for the year, look for its gloomy polar caps, its elusive and shady crepe ring near the planet, and the very narrow Encke Gap in the A-ring behind the much wider Cassini division. You Need a Telescope
Mars is the most dramatic planet this month. He will more than double his brightness from minus 1.2 to minus 2.2 again. It also gets 25 percent bigger, because we quickly catch up in our orbits. Mars starts at midnight and ends at 10:30. Mars will slow the movement to the east and begin its retrograde movement in Capricorn on June 28, a month before its much awaited opposition on July 29, which will be the best opposition in 15 years. Search for its beautiful golden-orange glow, a constellation east of Saturn.
Mercury appears half an hour after sunset shortly before the middle of the month, briefly in the west-northwestern sky. Look for a slender growing crescent moon that passes near Merkur on June 14th and then continues the next night near Venus in Gemini.
As a bonus, the brightest asteroid named Vesta on June 19 in Sagittarius, very close, will encounter resistance to Saturn. Vesta is the second largest asteroid after Ceres, about half of its size is 330 miles in diameter, was first discovered in 1807, but is the brightest. It will also be visible without optical help this month as it reaches 5.3 magnitude before fading slightly towards the end of the month.
Vesta is intriguing because it could have become a complete planet based on its geology, and was prevented from evolving due to the strong gravitational force of Jupiter. Vesta has a crust, a mantle, and a core like Earth, making it unique among the millions of asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. A large part of Vesta is missing near its south pole. That happened during a massive collision about a billion years ago that nearly tore it apart. This one collision threw half a million cubic kilometers of material into space and is still the source of five percent of all the meteorites we find on Earth.
1. June: The Moon is in Sagittarius near Saturn this morning.
. 3 June: Mars and the Moon will be only 3 degrees apart this morning.
. 4 June: The Compton gamma-ray telescope was resumed on that day in 2000 after 10 am years
5. June: Voyager 2 reached Neptune on this day in 1989 and made many discoveries. The last passage of Venus took place on this day in 2012. The next will not be until 2117.
. 6 June: The last quarter moon is at 2:33 pm
13. June: The new moon is at 3 o'clock: 44 o'clock On this day 1983 Pioneer 10 left the solar system and crossed the Heliopause at 121 a.u. from the sun, or about three times as far outside as Pluto.
sixteenth June: On this day in 1963 Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space and still remains the only woman doing a solo space flight. Find the Beehive Cluster halfway between the glowing Venus and the expanding Crescent Moon.
19th June: Vesta stands tonight in Sagittarius near Saturn in opposition to the sun.
20th June: Moon of the first quarter at 6:52 pm
21. June: Summer starts at 6:07
23. June: The Moon and Jupiter are only four degrees apart in Libra this evening
26. June: Charles Messier was born on this day in 1730. He was a French comet hunter who developed a catalog of 110 objects in the sky that were not comets.
27th June: Saturn will get up at night tonight, get up at sunset and will not set until sunrise
28. June: Full moon is at 12:54 and is also called Strawberry or Rose Moon.
29th June: George Ellery Hale was born on that day in 1868.
30th June: On this day in 1908, a comet or asteroid exploded a few miles above Tunguska, Siberia, with the power of 20 megatons of TNT, or about 1,000 times the energy of the first atomic bomb.
Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.