Indiana University Bloomington

Star Trak: June 2014

  • May 29, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A half hour after sunset June 1, Jupiter will stand out in the twilight low in the west-northwest. The bright planet will set almost three hours after the sun as the month begins but only about an hour after the sun by month’s end.

For most of June, it will accompany the bright stars Pollux and Castor just above it in the constellation Gemini the Twins. Jupiter will pass to the lower left (south) of Pollux on June 21, forming almost a straight line with the two stars to its right by the end of the month.

Far to Jupiter’s lower right (north) at the start of June will be Mercury, but the small planet will disappear from view in just a few days. Mercury will pass between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction) on June 19.

Saturn will be near its highest in the south as night falls during June, a fine object for viewing with a telescope until midnight, when it will be getting closer to the western horizon. Its rings will tilt 21 degrees to our line of sight, offering a beautiful display to telescope users on calm evenings. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, will be due north of the planet June 1 and 17 and due south June 9 and 25.

Mars will come into view halfway up the southern sky to the right (west) of yellow Saturn as evening twilight deepens at the beginning of June, but the red-orange planet will fade considerably by month’s end. To the left (east) of Mars will be the blue-white star Spica, offering a vivid color contrast to the planet.

Venus will shine brilliantly throughout June when it rises in the east two hours before the sun at the start of morning twilight. On June 24, the crescent moon will be 2 degrees to the right (south) of Venus, and nearby above the planet will be the Pleiades star cluster. The trio will be a spectacular sight in binoculars.

Solstice

The sun will reach the June solstice at 6:51 a.m. EDT (10:51 Universal Time) June 21, marking the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. For the next six months in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will be getting shorter.

The word "solstice" is derived from two Latin words that mean "the sun stands still." This is because the summer sun climbs to a higher point in the southern sky each day until the solstice. On the day of the solstice it appears to arrive at about the same maximum height above the horizon as the day before, and each day afterward its maximum point is lower, dropping back toward its lowest point at the winter solstice. In this sense, the sun "stands still" at the peak of its journey across the summer sky before it starts downward again toward the southern horizon.

Moon phases

The moon will be at first quarter on June 5, full on June 13, at third quarter on June 19 and new on June 27.

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Hal Kibbey

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  • hkibbey@indiana.edu