2017 June Solstice

21june-ecliptic   Northern hemisphere spring comes to an end and its summer begins on Wednesday day June 21st at 4:24 UT (11:24 pm CDT Tuesday June 20th) when the Sun ‘reaches’ the celestial coordinates of 23.5o north declination and 6 hours right ascension. With respect to the Earth’s surface the Sun is described as over the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5o, north latitude of the Earth’s equator. At this same time the Sun is just entering the boundaries of the astrological constellation Cancer the Crab. Interestingly about 11 hours later, June 21st at 15 UT (10 am CDT) the Sun will actually be entering the region of the Gemini Twins as it crosses the boundary between Gemini and Taurus.
Just had to include this!!
   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun, at this date, would be entering the astrological sign of Cancer the Crab.

   We know that it is the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun that causes the sun’s apparent eastward motion among the stars in the background. This is how the Sun ‘reaches’ a celestial coordinate, how it ‘crosses’ the boundaries between constellations, or how it is ‘in’ a constellation.

   With respect to the southern hemisphere this is the end of their summer and start of their fall season. So thinking globally my preference has been to use the name of the month to designate the season change. Hence the use of the term June Solstice rather than summer solstice.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Neptune Backs Up

Two days in a row! Like the song goes, “slow down you move too fast” – or proofread!!
   Friday June 16th the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune, ends its westward retrograde motion around the Sun and will resume direct motion, moving eastward will come to an apparent halt in its eastward or direct motion and appear to start moving backward to the west in what is known as retrograde motion. In this graphic the location of the 21.5-day old waning gibbous Moon is shown to be about 2-3o from Neptune. Neptune has an apparent magnitude of nearly 8.0 making it all but only visible with telescopes – and certainly not on this date with -12th magnitude Moon nearby.

   Retrograde motion is an apparent motion that the outer planets, relative to the Earth, have. It is an apparent motion that looks as if the outer planet stops it normal direct motion to the east and reverses direction to the west. After a period of time the apparent westward motion ends and the planet resumes its normal orbital path to the east. Retrograde motion happens as the faster moving Earth catches up with and then passes by the outer planet. It is during this time that the backward apparent motion happens.

   The two inner planets also have retrograde motion but it is a result of their orbit around the Sun and not the Earth passing them by. For approximately one-half of their orbit they move east, from western elongation through superior conjunction to eastern elongation. Then at eastern elongation the inner planet starts moving westward through inferior conjunction to western elongation.

   Read a little more about retrograde motion in my February 2012 Scope on the Skies column, drawkcab planets, in Science Scope Magazine.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Saturn at 2017 Opposition

saturn-opposition-ani
   Thursday June 15th the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the faster moving Earth passing Saturn and at opposition is centered between the outer planet and the Sun. Picture the arrangement with the Moon at full phase; Sun – Earth – Moon, and that is similar to the arrangement for Saturn at opposition.

   When an outer planet, like Saturn, reaches opposition that planet rises around local time for sunset and is visible all night.

   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

ISS Followed the Arc

   Last evening, Sunday June 11th the ISS, International Space Station orbited over my part of the world. The ISS appeared about 45o above the west-northwest horizon and followed a path that went below the bowl of the Big Dipper and in a straight line ‘followed the arc to Arcturus’ in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman. At its peak the ISS reached nearly the zenith and at its brightest had to be at least -3.0 in apparent magnitude. After a several minutes the ISS moved out of sunlight and faded from view above the southeastern horizon.
Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 800; F4.0; 2 sec.
   One dependable and accurate source of viewing information for the ISS is at NASA’s ISS Sightings web site. Here you may learn the time and direction the ISS will appear, its duration of visibility, and its time and direction it will stop being visible.

   In a similar manner the Heavens Above web site will also provide viewing information for the ISS but in addition it will display a star map showing the path across the sky. This sample graphic shows the ISS path for June 12th.

   Want to see what the Earth looks like from the ISS? Click on this link to go to the ISS HD Earth Viewing web site for a view from one of several cameras mounted on the ISS as this screen capture shows. There are two additional maps that show the current position and orbital path of the ISS.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon / Saturn Conjunction and Jupiter Pauses Briefly

   Friday June 9th one of the outer planets, Jupiter, becomes stationary in its retrograde westward orbital motion around the Sun. It will now begin moving in direct motion, its orbital direction around the Sun toward the east – as we view it from the Earth. Jupiter’s retrograde motion is something that occurs to varying amounts as the Earth passes by each outer planet.
   This animated graphic is set to show the motion of Jupiter from early May through the end of June. At the start the graphic shows where Jupiter is relative to the star Spica, and then it zooms in to make the retrograde loop for Jupiter easier to see.
   The Earth passing by an outer planet is a result of the Earth having a faster orbital speed, and as the angles between Earth and an outer planet change there is the appearance of the outer planet slowing down and stopping its regular eastward motion. Then for a time ranging from a week or so to several months the outer planet appears to be moving backward or toward the west. After a time the planet resumes its eastward motion.

   On Friday the 9th the just past full Moon, a 15-day old waning gibbous Moon, will be rising about an hour after local time for sunset. Between 2-3o to the right, or west, from the Moon is the planet Saturn as this graphic shows.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

June Moon at Apogee


   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Thursday June 8th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.85 Earth diameters (406,401 km or 252,526 miles) from the Earth.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”


   On the day of the apogee Moon the 14-day old full Moon rises around local time for sunset and is 9-10o degrees from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Moon/Spica Conjunction


   Sunday evening June 4th the 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be within about 6o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.