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Star Trak: June 2021

For immediate release: June 1, 2021

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Venus will be the first planet to appear after sunset in June. This brilliant "evening star" will be low in the western sky but still bright enough to see easily in the glow of twilight on June 1. It will remain visible until nearly 10 p.m. local time. As the month passes, Venus will drift across the constellation Gemini the Twins until it is about 6 degrees below the constellation's bright stars Castor and Pollux on June 24.

Mars will begin June about 5 degrees south of Pollux, setting just before midnight at the start of the month and an hour earlier by month's end. The planet's red-orange color will be a good match for yellow-orange Pollux. Mars will cross the Beehive star cluster on June 22 and 23. The view will be fine through a low-powered telescope, but catch it early -- the cluster will be low in the west and you'll need a clear horizon to follow the group as the sky darkens.

Saturn will appear above the eastern horizon soon after midnight local time on June 1 and about two hours earlier on June 30. The yellow planet will be best viewed through a telescope an hour before dawn, around 4 a.m. local time. Its rings will be tilted 17 degrees to our line of sight. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, can be seen with any telescope. Titan will be south of the planet on June 8 and 24 and north of the planet on June 16.

Jupiter will rise an hour after Saturn. On June 1 it will be about 30 degrees high in the southeast at 4:30 a.m. local time, just as the first signs of morning twilight begin to appear. By June 30 the giant planet will be nearly 40 degrees high at the same time, the highest Jupiter has been in Northern Hemisphere skies for four years. Though it will still be two months before opposition, Jupiter will offer an outstanding view through telescopes. Its four Galilean moons will be visible most nights.

Mercury will be out of sight in the solar glare during June. It will pass between Earth and the sun on June 10.

Solstice

The sun will reach the June solstice at 11:32 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 at last quarter on June 2, new on June 10, at first quarter on June 17, and full on June 24.

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

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