The Sky Above You – June 2017
By Duncan Lunan
The summer solstice this year will be on June 21st. The UK Met Office calls June 21st the first day of (meteorological) summer and it’s often referred to as the ‘official’ first day of summer, but it’s still referred to as ‘Midsummer’s Day’, which makes more sense, because it’s when the Sun reaches its furthest north for the year. Nobody else refers to the winter solstice (December 21st this year) as ‘the first day of winter’.
The Moon will be Full on June 9th., New on June 24th.
The planet Mercury is not visible in June.
Venus rises before 3 a.m. in June, at greatest elongation from the Sun on the 3rd. At the beginning of the month the planet is in Pisces, entering Aries on June 10th and Taurus on June 28th. The Moon is near Venus on 21st June, before midsummer sunrise.
Mars is behind the Sun and not visible in June.
Jupiter in Virgo sets at 2 a.m. in June. There will be a double shadow transit of Jupiter by its moons Io and Europa on the night of 11/12th June, and our Moon passes Jupiter on June 30th. Meanwhile, after developing an engine problem NASA’s Juno probe will remain in its current orbit, gaining more data in close passes over the poles of Jupiter, but at longer intervals than planned.
Saturn in Sagittarius is visible all night in June, at opposition on the 15th, closest to us and due south at midnight (GMT). The Moon appears near it at Full Moon on the 9th/10th June. After 13 years orbiting Saturn, recently grazing the outer edge of the rings, the Cassini spacecraft is making close passes of the inner edge before its final plunge into the planet on September 15th.
Uranus in Pisces does not reappear until late June, when it rises at 2 a.m..
Neptune in Aquarius rises at 1 a.m. in June.
Comet Johnson, discovered in 2015, will be 75 million miles from Earth on June 4th, before leaving the Solar system forever. At 6th or 7th magnitude, the comet should be visible in binoculars early in the month, 5 degrees southeast of Arcturus in the constellation Boōtes on June 5th, after which it will be harder to see due to moonlight as it passes its closest point to the Sun (245 million miles) on June 12th, moving on into Virgo on June 14th.
The Sky Above You
By Duncan Lunan
I began writing this column in early 1983 at the suggestion of the late Chris Boyce. At that time the Post Office would allow 1000 free mailings to start a new business, just under the number of small press newspapers in the UK at the time. I printed a flier with the help of John Braithwaite (of Braithwaite Telescopes) offering a three-part column for £5, with the sky this month, a series of articles for beginners, and a monthly news feature. The column ran from May 1983 to May 1993 in various newspapers and magazines, but never in more than five outlets at a time, although every one of those 1000-plus papers would have included an astrology column. Since then it’s appeared sporadically in a range of publications including The Southsider in Glasgow and the Dalyan Courier in Turkey, but most often, normally three times per year, in Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos since the first issue in March 2003. It appeared monthly online in Cosmic Aspects and continues to appear monthly in the Ayrshire Post.
The monthly maps for the column were drawn for me by Jim Barker, based on similar, uncredited ones in Dr. Leon Hausman’s “Astronomy Handbook” (Fawcett Publications, 1956). Jim had to redraw or elongate several of them because they were drawn for mid-US latitudes, about 40o North. The biggest change needed was in November when only Dubhe, Merak and Megrez of the Big Dipper, as the US version called it, were visible at that latitude. In the UK, all the stars of the Plough are circumpolar, always above the horizon. We decided to keep an insert in the January map showing the position of M42, the Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion, and for that reason, to stick with the set time of 9 p.m., (10 p.m. BST in summer), although in Scotland the sky isn’t dark then during June and July.
To use the maps in theory you should hold them overhead, aligning the North edge to true north, marked by Polaris and indicated by Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers. It’s more practical to hold the map in front of you when looking south and then rotate it as you face east, south and west. Some readers are confused because east is on the left, opposite to terrestrial maps, but that’s because they’re the other way up. When you’re facing south and looking at the sky, east is on your left.
The star patterns are the same for each month of each year, and only the positions of the planets change. (“Astronomy Handbook” accidentally shows Saturn in Virgo during May, showing that the maps weren’t originally drawn for the Hausman book.) Consequently regular readers of JHC have by now built up a complete set of twelve.
Duncan recording The Sky Above You programs for the Falkland Island’s TV