On Thursday June 2nd the position of the planet Neptune with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. At that orbital position Neptune, and actually any outer planet, is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Neptune leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Neptune rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.
Neptune currently is within the boundaries of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. At around 7th magnitude Neptune is too dim to see with the naked-eye but easily seen with a telescope or binoculars. In 7×50 binoculars Neptune may be visible below the 4th magnitude Lambda Aquarii, and just below the point of a small triangle arrangement of 6th magnitude stars.
This is a short video clip from a much longer video that I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” at the Gottleib Planetarium in Kansas City Missouri during May 2011.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.