There are some interesting things going on in the skies this month (aren’t there always?) and here’s a quick run down of what’s happening for your delectation!..
If you have yet to spot Saturn through a telescope, it’s still well placed in the sky especially around midnight. If you can draw your attention away from the beautiful rings, see if you can spot Saturn’s largest and brightest moon, Titan at its greatest elongation, that is its greatest distance from the planet, on the 7th of the month.
A rare occultation of the planet Mercury by the Moon occurs on the 26th. This happens in full daylight and so is going to be difficult to see, but not impossible. It happens around 1pm BST and with the Sun only 10 degrees to the east, you’ll need to take special care when it comes to pointing any optical aid in that direction!
Don’t forget that the summer means sunshine (even in the UK sometimes!) and this means the opportunity to do some solar observing. Obviously you will need either special filters for you telescope/binoculars, or know how to project the Sun safely through a telescope. If you are in any doubt how to do this, then please ask someone who you trust to explain. You can of course, ask me! There will be some more information in this Newsletter about Solar observing; how to do it and why it’s fun!
Did you know that there are in fact 13 constellations of the Zodiac? The Sun spends a couple of weeks of the year in the constellation of Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer during November. The reason why I’m telling you this is because the constellation is well on show this month. More about this in the ‘Deep Sky Highlights’ section…
There are many other delights in the deep sky to be enjoyed this month too, if you own or have access to a telescope. Again, more on this later.
If you are interested in asteroids, then the two largest, Ceres and Vesta, are moving closer together in the night sky from our point of view, called a conjunction, this month. You can find them in the constellation of Virgo in the south-west after dark. The orangey-pink and bright planet Mars should help draw your attention to the right part of the sky. Use a star chart to be sure you are in fact looking at the asteroids. You can check by marking their position on your chart on a nightly basis. The asteroids will appear to move, whereas the background stars will not. They will be moving even closer next month, but more about that in next month’s Newsletter. If you don’t have a star chart, then you can get one here on my Amazon page.
June also sees the start of the Noctilucent Cloud season. These gorgeous iridescent electric blue coloured clouds are seen an hour or two after sunset and an hour or so before dawn, low down in the northern sky and are sunlight being reflected off extremely high clouds right up in the stratosphere, much higher than the normal clouds with which we are all too familiar. It is thought that these cloud are formed around meteoritic dust lingering in the highest regions of our atmosphere. The picture shown here, by Pete Lawrence, shows you exactly what to look for.
As you can see, there’s lots of reasons to get out under the skies this month, so lets all hope for clear ones.
This is just a part of my monthly Newsletter, so if you’ve come upon it by exploring my blog, why not sign up for the whole thing. It’s FREE! You can do this by putting your email address in the pop up box on my website and it’s guaranteed secure and spam free too. So please click here and sign up!