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Sky Report -June 2009

Early Full Moon, Venus Peaks at Dawn and Milky Way Seen as Summer Opens

June is the month of maximum sunlight with 14.75 hours of daily sunshine at both the beginning and end of the month. During June, the mid day sun reaches 4/5th of  the way  from the southern horizon to the top of the sky. The sun then rises and sets farthest North for the year, rising in the East Northeast and setting in the West  Northwest. In mid June, we have the earliest sunrises of the year (about 5:46 p.m.); late June features the latest sunsets of the year (about 8:48 p.m.). In June,  the Earth’s motion about  the sun causes the sun to move across Taurus, entering Gemini on the first day of summer, June 21st. On  this day, the sun shines for 15 hours. This is the date of  the  midnight sun at the Arctic Circle (latitude 65.5 degrees North), when the sun can be seen along the northern horizon at local midnight. At the North Pole, the sun reaches its greatest height in the sky for the year at an altitude of 23.5 degrees.
June opens with a half full evening moon, offering good views of its craters and mountain peaks. On June 7th, the moon grows to full, appearing in the star group Ophiuchus  (just above the Scorpion’s tail). This full moon will reach only 25 degrees above the horizon and will likely appear yellowish through the haze. By mid June, the moon has retreated into the morning sky, rising after midnight. On  June 19th, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Venus in the eastern dawn. On June 22nd, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun. By June 24th, the moon can again be seen low in the western dusk. On the evening of June 27th, the crescent moon appears near the planet Saturn. On June 29th, the moon appears half full in the southwestern evening sky.

In early June, the brilliant planet Venus reaches its greatest angle to the sun in the eastern dawn, rising two  hours before the sun. On June 21st, the planets Venus and Mars appear within 2 degrees or 4 moon widths apart. Venus is more than 100 times as bright as Mars, owing to its closer distance to both the Earth and sun. The planet Jupiter is also prominent at dawn, shining  in the South. The planet Saturn appears in the Western dusk. Saturn is slowly dropping towards the western horizon; as it gets lower, a clear view of the rings through a  telescope will be more difficult.

In June, the eastern evening sky is dominated by the Summer Triangle, a trio of bright stars in the East. Running across the lower part of the Summer Triangle is the Milky Way, which can be glimpsed on dark moonless nights. The Big Dipper is still very high in the North, with its handle arching to the bright golden star Arcturus. In the Southeast  evening  sky is the Scorpion, a bright zodiac group  that’s shaped like a letter “J”. Mid  way up in the Northeast is the striking white-blue star Vega, the top star of the Summer Triangle.


By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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