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Star Trak: June 2020

For immediate release: June 1, 2020

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Jupiter and Saturn will dominate the night sky during June. The two giant planets will rise within about 15 minutes of each other around midnight on June 1, but in the hour after sunset by the end of the month. Both will get larger and brighter as they approach their July oppositions. The best views of both planets will happen in the hours before dawn, when they will stand about 30 degrees high in the southwest for observers at mid-northern latitudes. Saturn will be to the left (east) of much brighter Jupiter.

Saturn's RingsSaturn's Rings
Photo Credit: NASA

The two planets will appear unusually low in the sky, but there will still be much detail to see with a telescope. Jupiter's four Galilean moons will show up clearly, and a telescope will give the best view of Saturn's rings tilted 20 degrees to our line of sight. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, can be seen with any telescope. Titan will be north of the planet on June 14 and 30 and south of the planet on June 6 and 22.

Mercury will be the only planet visible as the long evening twilight begins to fade. It will set more than 1 hour and 45 minutes after the sun during the first week of June, but its altitude and brightness will quickly decrease. After midmonth it will be too low to see without optical aid. Mercury will pass between Earth and the sun on July 1.

Mars will rise around 2 a.m. local time as June begins and an hour earlier at month's end. It will be moderately high in the southeast as morning twilight begins. The Red Planet will get bigger and brighter during the month, beginning to show significant surface detail in medium-size telescopes.

After emerging from the sun's glare, Venus will move steadily higher in morning twilight and brighten rapidly. By June 20 it will rise 80 minutes before the sun, and at month's end it will clear the east-northeastern horizon two hours before sunrise below the Pleiades star cluster.

Solstice

The sun will reach the June solstice at 5:44 p.m. EDT on June 20, 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 December 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 full on June 5, at third quarter on June 13, new on June 21 and at first quarter on June 28.

Author: Hal Kibbey Email: hkibbey [at] gmail.com

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