May 31, 2013
Here are the monthly sky watch highlights. Each month, we share the wonders of the universe to help you explore the night sky from your own backyard. (Note: Times listed below are ET.)
by Bob Berman, as featured in
The Old Farmer's Almanac
A striking vertical line of bright planets forms near the sunset point some 40 minutes after sunset on the 1st. Jupiter, at magnitude –1.9, is closest to the horizon; Venus, at –3.8, is in the middle; and Mercury, at –0.4, stands highest. Mercury is just a scant 10 degrees above the horizon, so the spectacle requires a flat skyline for viewing. The thin 2-day-old Moon hovers to the lower left of Mercury and Venus on the 10th. Look for the Moon, due south at nightfall, next to blue Spica on the 18th and below Saturn on the 19th. Jupiter passes behind the Sun in a conjunction on the 19th. Summer arrives with the solstice at 1:04 A.M. on the 21st.
Sky Map June 2013
by Jeff DeTray
Visit Jeff's site at AstronomyBoy.com
Astronomer Jeff DeTray has created the sky map below to help you navigate the June sky. This month's highlights: Lions and Crabs (sorry, no Tigers) and Bears, Oh My!
June is a great time of year for star gazing, especially if you are an animal lover. No fewer than 11 creatures are visible on this month's Sky Map, though not all of them are obvious.
Beginning left of center is Leo, the Lion, a constellation whose outline really does look like its namesake. Leo appears to standing on his head at this time of year, look downward at Cancer, the Crab, and at the head of Hydra, the Water Snake. Hydra is notable for being the largest constellation in the sky, and only half of it fits on the map. Sadly, Cancer doesn't look much like a crab – or anything else for that matter. Beneath Cancer, just above the horizon, you may be able to glimpse Canis Minor, the Smaller Dog. The bright star Procyon is probably all you'll see and only if the sky is clear and free of light pollution.
Now look to the right of Leo and see if you can spot the small pattern of three stars comprising Leo Minor, the Smaller Lion. Not very impressive, is he? Even less spectacular is the constellation at the top of our map, Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs. There is some interesting history here, however. The brighter of the two stars comprising Canes Venatici is called Cor Caroli (“Charles' Heart”), so named in 1660 to honor the murdered King Charles I of England.
After the lesser lights above, we now come to big, bright Ursa Major, the Greater Bear. The best known part of Ursa Major is the bright asterism (unofficial star pattern) we call the Big Dipper. But the Big Dipper is only a part of the much larger constellation. As you can see on the map, the handle of the Dipper is also the tail of the Bear. Likewise, the bowl of the Dipper is the Bear's belly. Other parts of the Greater Bear's anatomy are labeled on the map, illustrating that Ursa Major consists of much more than merely the Big Dipper.
Moving right from the Big Dipper, we pass the tail of Draco, the Dragon and come to Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear. Its main stars form the Little Dipper asterism. Ursa Minor's appearance is a far cry from its much flashier cousin, but it does hold one very important star, Polaris, the North Star. Polaris happens to lie quite close to the North Celestial Pole, the point in the sky directly above the Earth's North Pole. By virtue of its location, Polaris appears to barely move as all other stars swing slowly around it during the course of the year. As the Earth's orientation with respect to the stars changes, the location of the North Celestial Pole gradually changes, so Polaris won't always be the North Star.
If you follow the “handle” of the Little Dipper downward, you'll come to a relatively empty region of sky occupied by Camelopardalis, the Giraffe. The stars of Camelopardalis are all faint, and if you are able to visualize a Giraffe in that part of the sky, your imagination is better than mine! Likewise, the constellation Lynx, the Cat, is a zig-zag of faint stars that look nothing like any feline. Lynx was invented to fill in a part of the sky that otherwise belonged to no constellation. Supposedly, you can only see the constellation if your vision is especially good – like a real-life Lynx!
Finally, if you missed seeing the elusive planet Mercury last month, you have another chance in June. Refer to the bottom center of this month's map. Look to the west-northwest after sunset around the middle of the month, where you will see the brilliant planet Venus. Mercury lies just to the upper right of Venus.
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott's Skymap Pro
Explore the sky night from your own backyard. A printable black and white map is provided below!
Click for Printable Sky Map (PDF)
Just click, print, and bring outside!