By Mike Glazier
Mercury. This small planet will begin its first few days of June behind the Sun as it passes through superior conjunction and perihelion. By the middle to the end of the month it will reappear in the western skies and become observable in the Northern and southern hemispheres. As has been said so many times before, Mercury is often mistaken for a bright star.
Venus. This planet will continue to brighten, as if it isn’t bright enough already, Venus will reach magnitude -8.0 and will pass just a few degrees from the star Pollux on June 8th. However, on the 16th of the month the Moon will join Venus which incidentally will be sporting a GIBBOUS phase.
Mars the red planet will be in Capricornus and again difficult for observers in the northern hemisphere, it will shine at a respectable -1.3 magnitude but because of it being south of the ecliptic observers in the tropics will have the best views and they will be able to watch the planet rise rapidly.
Jupiter of course is the ‘giant’ which reached opposition last month. It is still visible for most of the night despite the fact that it hides behind the house at the rear of ours and doesn’t become accessible until the very late and early morning hours. On June 23rd the waxing GIBBOUS Moon will pass the giant planet which incidentally will be the brightest object in the constellation of Libra.
Saturn the other giant planet with its rings that are known to most people will be in Sagittarius. It will be or will have been depending on just when you read this, close to a waning GIBBOUS Moon on June 1st. Saturn will reach opposition on June 27th when it will reach magnitude 0.0. On June 28th it will be just 1.8º South of the full Moon
There are no meteor showers in June but of course that doesn’t omit the odd ‘sporadic’ meteor or lone wolf, which can be just as dramatic. Most sporadics are seen by means of the peripheral areas of the eye, the areas which trigger low light level activity. It is also the part of the eye used as a trick by many astronomers when they are observing dim and diffuse nebulae or galaxies and it is this method which enables them to be able to determine areas of structure. Try it one evening.
This year will see 8 comets, both of long and short periods in the skies but the bad news is that most are very poor on the magnitude scale. Other comets which enter our domain are regularly at 12th magnitude meaning that the average observer without c.c.d. equipment or a large telescope is at a disadvantage straight away. However two to look out for are C/2016 R2 panSTARRS and 21P/GGiacobini-Zinner
For those who like to include the Moon in their agenda for the month,
Last quarter is on June 6th, New Moon on June 13th, First quarter is on 20th and Full Moon on June 28th Apogee will be on June 2nd at 405,300 kms. and again on June 30th at 406,100 kms AND Perigee on June 14th at 359,500 kms.
Finally the Summer solstice is on June 21st. Notice that on this day the Sun rises as far to the north of East and sets as far to the North of West as it possibly can. Solstice means literally ‘standstill of the Sun’ and from 21st the Sun will slowly track southwards.