By Mike Glazier
Summertime is something we all look forward to but for amateur astronomers, stargazers, whatever they may be called, it is the time of the year when many telescopes get to go on vacation This is because as far as we are concerned a gentle kind of twilight ‘hangs’ around for most of the night, and indeed in Scotland the sky will remain so bright that faint stars and many constellations will remain invisible. This is generally so in that Ursa Major will only be visible around midnight because of two factors; the stars of Ursa Major are bright, and the group will be to the N.W. and close to the zenith.
Despite all of this observers are often resilient and if you are one, then to the South, Bòòtes, Corona Borealis and Hercules are all placed near to the zenith and at their best for the year. A dark observing site, clear skies and a lot of patience will be the ingredients needed to carry out any meaningful observations.
MERCURY passes superior conjunction on June 21st and will be behind the Sun.
VENUS reaches greatest Western elongation on June 3rd at magnitude -4.4 but low down to the East in the dawn skies. If you look really carefully you may ‘spot’ Uranus just above, but again the low elevation could make it difficult.
MARS will move slowly out of Taurus and into Gemini, disappointingly, however it will be too close to the Sun as to be visible.
JUPITER which has been superb of late will remain in Virgo. During the first few days of June (3rd) it will be close to a waning Moon, in fact 2.5º N with Spica close by to form a trio.
SATURN will be making its presence felt soon but with a few associated problems. The planet will be very low down towards the south-east at around midnight, and the Moon will be almost at a full phase. Saturn will be at opposition on June 15th at magnitude 0.0
URANUS and NEPTUNE are both non runners due to Summertime sky conditions. Uranus is at magnitude 5.9 in Pisces *(see notes on Venus)* and Neptune at magnitude 7.9
The Moon will be at Apogee on June 8th and Perigee on June 23rd.
First quarter on June 1st, Full Moon on 9th. Last quarter on 17th and New Moon on 24th.
For information; On June 28th the Moon will move just South of the star Regulus, but to observers in the area of the Pacific there will be an occultation.
On June 21st we will have the Summer solstice meaning ‘standstill of the Sun’. Effectively the Sun will have reached its farthest point to the North and as we will see, it will gradually begin to track back southwards.
Remember that from time to time sporadic meteors cross the sky and it is always a delight to spot one, more often than not they are seen in one’s peripheral vision, the outer part of the eye which is more susceptible to low light levels, hence we and others often claim to have seen a meteor out of the corner of the eye.
The I.S.S. ( international space station) is always nice to see but more so to be able to tell others what it is.
Next month we will have three meteor showers, all running into August.
That’s it folks so enjoy the sky however you do it.