A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth
Compiled by John Rowland
Well, we’re now into the lightest month of the year, and apart from the Moon and a few select double stars, there’s not much to see up there I’m afraid. The summer solstice is on June 21st at 0431 and on that day from York, the sun rises at 0434 and sets at 2139. There are no periods of astronomical darkness; the darkest nights on offer are between the 1st and the 7th, when there is some nautical twilight, but other than that there is only civil twilight (Sun 6° below horizon) all night. But let’s make the best of it and see what we can see.
We’ve had atrocious weather for most of May but at the time of writing (26th) it looks as if we’re at last going to get some sunshine and warmth. I hope as you read this that better weather has already arrived.
Please note that all 4-figure times given in this article are in BST.
As has been the case for many months now, the Sun remains relatively inactive. It is due to emerge from solar minimum but as yet there is no sign of it doing so. It is however worth checking spaceweatherlive.com to see whether anything’s going on.
Partial Solar Eclipse 10th June
There will be a partial solar eclipse (annular in the Arctic) on the 10th. From York first contact is at 1009 and last contact is at 1229. Maximum eclipse will be at 1116, when about 20% if the Sun’s disc will be hidden by the Moon. It will not get perceptibly dark and most members of the public won’t notice it. If you want to see it, use approved and professional solar glasses, projection or any of the methods described in this article. Do NOT chance looking at the Sun directly, even for a moment. The simulation below from SkyViewCafe shows the extent of the eclipse at its maximum.
The best evenings to observe the Moon are from Sunday 13th (slender crescent) through to Monday 21st (late gibbous). For those wishing to spot the earliest crescent moon, the best day will be Friday 11th after the Sun sets at 2134 (But seeCrescent Moon Watch page for more details. For those wishing to use “Moon Age” in last month’s Moon Observation Guide and need to know the timing of this month’s New Moon, it is at 1153 hrs on the 10th [June].
Mercury and Venus
Mercury is not visible. Venus may be seen very low in the WNW-NW at around 2200.
Tiny Mars is a couple of degrees to the lower left of the crescent Moon on the 13th.
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune
All these planets are early morning objects and too low or too near the Sun to bother with this month.
Deep Sky Objects (DSOs)
I would say that the only DSO worthy of your attention this month is M13, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. It’s due south at midnight in the middle of the month and over 70° high in the sky.
To many, double stars don’t match the pulling power of exotic DSOs, but they can engage the observer’s interest in other ways. Firstly, some of them are really quite startling, especially when the two components are of different colours. Secondly, they can serve to test your (or members of your family’s) visual acuity and/or your telescope optics. And last but not least, they can be a personal challenge. There are few things more satisfying in observational astronomy than to “split” a double that has stubbornly appeared as a single star in the past, or on a night of pristine seeing to suddenly spot a star’s faint companion that you knew was there but had never seen before.
To tempt you to have a go, I’ve included a Special Supplement A Double Star Guide. It briefly explains and describes double stars, and includes a list of suitable summer targets and finder charts.
Go on, give it a try; there’s little else to point your telescope at on these June evenings.
Man’s Space Activities
Spotting the International Space Station
Unlike the 65 visible passes of the ISS in May, there are no visible passes in June. You’ll have to wait until July to see it next. The Heavens Above web site gives all the details. The link is preset to return the data for sightings from York. Use the left and right chevron buttons to change the date range. All times are BST.
CHINA’s Tianwen-1 Mars Mission
With typical paranoid reluctance to release any more information than is absolutely necessary, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) seems to have been successful in landing its Zhurong Rover onto the Utopia Planitia. (This is a fascinating region; see this Wikipedia article.) Sky & Telescope have been most diplomatic in saying “Images are now trickling out”, in the following article. https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/chinas-zhurong-rover-lands-on-mars/
Surrey Satellite Company Leads Move to Provide Lunar GPS Coverage
It’s going to get busy up there soon, so forward-thinking Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Guildford (SSTL) is hoping to grab some of the action. A nice UK business success story. https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/moonlight-europe-constellation-lunar-satellites/
General Space News
There’s always something of interest going on in space. See the space.com web site for the latest news. And for a detailed timetable of projected launches and other space-related activities, the Wikipedia web site is an excellent place to start as it has links to each project/mission mentioned.
I wish you clear skies and good viewing. Stay safe.