Jun 11

Sky Report: June 13-19

The planets on the 18th(and all week; only the moon moves a noticeable amount) and the brightest stars. The horizon is translucent so you can see the sun. Graphic created with SkySafariAstronomy.com.

How low is your southern horizon? At the latitude of southern Utah we can see far into the sky’s southern hemisphere, all the way down to the northern part of the constellation Centaurus. From the Southern Hemisphere this is a magnificent constellation with many bright stars, including Alpha Centauri, the closest star to our solar system, plus a bright section of the Milky Way. Look as soon as the sky grows dark and the stars you’ll see skimming the southern horizon are in the Centaur with some in Lupus, the Wolf, to the left. The Southern Cross is just below Centaurus but it’s 10 or so degrees below our horizon, so we just miss it. The Centaur is an ancient constellation that goes back at least to classical Greek times.

From the 18th through the 27th all eight planets plus the moon and a bright asteroid are visible at the same time before sunrise where they span no more than 107° of the sky. You’ll need binoculars for four. From east to west, or left to right, they are:

Mercury: Only a few degrees above the horizon, so use binoculars. You’ll need a very low horizon to the east-northeast and the window of time to see it is narrow at around 45 minutes before sunrise, so look for it last.

Venus: The brightest planet, and still visible after sunrise. Mercury is to the 7 o’clock position from Venus and 10° distant.

Uranus: Use a star map and binoculars. It’s 8° to the upper right of Venus. Theoretically it’s visible to the naked eye but seldom is in practice.

Mars: Its red color gives it away, 1/3 of the way from Jupiter to Venus. Mars is presently quite distant but it will dominate the evening sky late this year.

Jupiter: The second brightest planet.

Neptune: The faintest; it’s as far to the west of Jupiter as Mars is to the east. Use binoculars if not a telescope

Vesta: The 4th asteroid discovered and the brightest, it’s slightly brighter than Neptune, so you’ll need at least binoculars. Vesta is only 300 miles in diameter and it orbits between Mars and Jupiter.

Saturn: The most distant naked-eye planet

Moon: Just past full and very bright. On the 18th it is near Saturn and it will pass each object in turn in the coming week. I’ll remind you of them next week.

Of course, all the planets are in a line. The solar system is flat and we see it edge-on. Only the moon deviates from that plane by very much (5°).

Star maps to help you find the fainter objects are at www.Heavens-Above.com and https://theskylive.com; set for the time and your location. Far, far better is a planetarium app like SkySafari, which is my favorite.

Always remember that the width of your fist held at arm’s length is about 10°. Smaller people with smaller fists also have shorter arms, so it works out. The width of a finger is about 2°.

Stellar Vista Observatory provides portable telescopes and tripod mounted binocular kits on loan for free to residents and visitors in Kane County. Enhance your enjoyment of the night sky! For details or to request a loan, visit https://stellarvistaobservatory.org/discover-the-night-sky/ or drop in to the Kane County Office of Tourism.

The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate, and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at www.stellarvistaobservatory.org. Send questions and comments to John@StargazingAdventures.org.

About the Author:

John Mosley was Program Supervisor of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles for 27 years and is the author of “Stargazing for Beginners” and “Stargazing with Binoculars and Telescopes”. He and his wife live in St. George where he continues to stargaze from his retirement home while serving on the advisory committee for Stellar Vista Observatory.

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