June 2018

• June 4th, 2018

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

June is more exciting than normal, by providing us a chance to see all the naked eye planets by month’s end, lunar close encounters with all but Mercury, and an especially close one with Saturn (only 1˚!), with most planets visible for long periods of the night. So get out your scope and try to find all the planets in one night!

 

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Venus (W), Jupiter (SE), Mercury (W – Late June)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (SàW), Saturn (EàW)
  • Morning – Saturn (S), Mars (S)

 

Mercury

  • You might catch it about an hour after sunset, low in the West, down and to the right of Venus, but only after mid-June, as it is getting higher and higher each day.

Venus

  • Venus is looking fantastic AGAIN this month! Look West and find the brightest source of light in that direction, more than two fist-widths above the horizon, that lasts almost 2.5 hours before it sets. If you have a telescope, you can notice Venus getting bigger and less round throughout the month.

Mars

  • Rises between 12:30am and 11pm. Look S around sunrise and find the red object about 30˚ above the horizon in Capricorn.

Saturn

  • Rises between 10:45pm at the beginning of the month and 9pm at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SE horizon in evening, and SW in the morning, at the top of Sagittarius.

Jupiter

  • Up in the SSE around sunset and moves across the sky throughout the night, hanging out in Libra, setting right around 3am.

 

EVENTS...

 

1st - 4th  – Close EncounterMoon, Saturn, Mars – On the morning of June 1st, find Saturn not far from the Moon. Then, on the morning of the 2nd, the Moon will be right in between Mars and Saturn in the Southern sky. The next morning, on the 3rd, find the Moon only 3˚ above Mars, and then find them all lined up, with the Moon all the way to the left, on the morning of June 4th.

Last Quarter Moon – 6th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

New Moon – 13th (darkest skies) 

15th – 16th - Close EncounterMoon, Venus – A wonderful pair this month. Look West on the 15th after sunset for bright Venus with a very thin crescent Moon just 8˚ below.  Then, on the 16th, the Moon will have moved to just about 7˚ to the left of Venus, and will be a little bit thicker.

First Quarter Moon – 20th (Visible until midnight)

21stSummer Solstice – This is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  There’s a bit of explanation as to why here.

23rd Close EncounterMoon, Jupiter – Find the Moon around sunset and you’ll also find Jupiter about 4˚ down and to the right. They’ll move across the sky together until they set in the West around 2:30am.

27th Close EncounterMoon, Saturn – Find the Moon after sunset and you’ll also find Saturn only 1˚below. A great chance to see two really bright objects right near each other.

Full Moon – 28th (Visible all night)

 

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is around 8:30pm) – Bootes (The shepherd, kite, or ice cream cone).  You can follow the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to get to its brightest star Arcturus.

MidnightHerculesExtra Challenge! Look for M13, the Hercules Cluster in between two of Hercules’ “keystone” stars.  It known as the best globular cluster in the northern skies.  It will be a fuzzy spot in binoculars and will be even cooler through a telescope

Early MorningLyra, Cygnus, Lacerta – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are starting to rise in the morning now, that means that summer is on its way. Extra Challenge! Look for M57, the Ring Nebula in between two of Lyra’s stars.  It is 2,300 light years away, which means we’re seeing what it looked like 2,300 years ago.  The shell that you see is the remnants of the central star that blew up some 20,000 years ago.  It has a donut-like appearance through a telescope.  It’ll be easy to find, but tough to see in binoculars, so get the scope out for this one.

 

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Spring constellations:  Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules. 

First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets) and look at the handle.  Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus.  Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd.  Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone. 

Then, following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica.  Spica is the brightest star in Virgo.  Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her. 

To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis.  This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky. 

To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules.  Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster. 

Lastly, Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left.  Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

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May 2018

• May 4th, 2018

Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

May will be a month for 4 out of the 5 naked eye planets, with Venus and Jupiter visible early each night and Mars and Saturn visible in the mornings, along with close encounters between each of these and the Moon.

 

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Venus (W)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (EàW)
  • Morning – Saturn (E) , Mars (E), Jupiter (W)

Mercury

  • Not visible this month

Venus

  • Venus is looking fantastic this month! Look West and find the brightest source of light in that direction, about two fist-widths above the horizon.

Mars

  • Rises between 12am and 1am. Look SSE around sunrise and find the red object near Saturn, in Capricorn.

Saturn

  • Rises around 1am at the beginning of the month and 11pm at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SSE horizon, up and to the right of Mars and at the top of Sagittarius.

Jupiter

  • Up in the SE around sunset and moves across the sky throughout the night, hanging out in Libra, setting right around sunrise.


EVENTS...

 4th - 7th  – Close EncounterMoon, Saturn, Mars – After 2am, the Moon lines up just 6˚ to the right of Saturn on the 4th, with Mars 15˚ to the left of Saturn on the 4th. On the 5th, the Moon is almost perfectly in between Mars and Saturn, and then travels to within 2˚ of Mars on the morning of the 6th.  The next morning, find the Last Quarter Moon VERY low on the horizon, with Mars and Saturn lining up to the right.

Last Quarter Moon – 7th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

Jupiter reaches opposition – 8th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

New Moon – 15th (darkest skies) 

17th - Close EncounterMoon, Venus – A wonderful pair this month. Look West after sunset for bright Venus with a very thin crescent Moon just 5˚ to the left.

19th – 20th - Rocket Launch – NASA will be sending another cargo resupply to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket from Wallops Island in VA

First Quarter Moon – 21st (Visible until midnight)

27th Close EncounterMoon, Jupiter – Find the Moon after sunset and you’ll also find Jupiter about 5˚ down and to the right, both within Libra.

Full Moon – 29th (Visible all night)

31st Close EncounterMoon, Saturn – Find the Moon after 11pm and you’ll also find Saturn about 2˚ down and to the right, both within Sagittarius.

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a SkyMap for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is between 8:00pm and 8:30pm) – Ursa Major’s legs, Leo, Leo Minor

Midnight – Bootes – find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes.  Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”

Early Morning – Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are starting to rise in the morning now, that means that summer is on its way.

 

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

 

Spring constellations:  Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules.

First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets) and look at the handle.  Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus.  Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd.  Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone.

Then, following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica.  Spica is the brightest star in Virgo.  Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her.

To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis.  This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky.

To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules.  Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster.

Lastly, Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left.  Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

 

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

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