The Night Sky This Month: June 2019

Night Sky June

The June Solstice occurs at 15:54 UTC, on the 21st of June. At this time, the Sun will be directly above the Tropic of Cancer, which signifies the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, and the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere.

Constellations that are prominent in the south at this time of year include Ursa Major, Hercules, Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. The Summer Triangle also comes into view in the east during the evenings, with the huge asterism comprised of the brightest stars in the constellations Lyra (Vega), Cygnus (Deneb) and Aquila (Altair).

The Moon in June 2019

Favourable illumination after the First Quarter Moon, on the 19th of June, to be exact, offers lunar observers some excellent opportunities to observe Mons Piton, an isolated mountain in the eastern reaches of the Mare Imbrium. Almost due east of the 2.3km-kigh mountain is the crater Cassini, a 57km-wide lava-filled crater that contains two significant craters, Cassini A, and Cassini B, within its boundaries. Both features are interesting Moon surface features that form part of the eastern rim of the Mare Imbrium,. There is some uncertainty about the exact origins of Mons Piton, though.

The Moon Phases In June 2019

New Moon First Quarter Full Moon Third Quarter
June 3rd June 10th June 17th June 25th

The Planets In June 2019

Mercury is now an early evening object, having passed behind the Sun late in May. However, the little planet remains very low on the north-western horizon after sunset at the start of the month, but it will gain some altitude as it moves towards its point of greatest elongation from the Sun. Note that the planets’ brightness will diminish from magnitude -1.1 to magnitude +0.9 by the end of the month. Even though its angular diameter will also increase to 9.2 seconds of arc, finding the little planet will be difficult in the Sun’s glare.

Venus starts the month rising about one hour before dawn. Although it will shine at magnitude -3.8, it will only reach an elevation of about 4 degrees over the north-eastern horizon at sunrise. This could make it very difficult, if not impossible, to spot the planet in the bright morning twilight. Since Venus rises almost directly in the Sun’s path, binoculars should be used with extreme care when trying to spot the planet.

Mars will shine at magnitude +1.8 in the southwest after sunset. Now moving towards the constellation Cancer, Mars will reach an elevation of only about eleven degrees when it sets about two hours after sunset at the start of the month. By month’s end, however, the planet will set less than one hour after sunset. The Red planet’s angular diameter will also shrink somewhat- from 3.9 seconds of arc, to 3.7 seconds of arc as the month wears on. This means it might not be possible to spot even major surface details through June.

Jupiter will remain at magnitude -2.6 throughout June. Since it will reach a point of opposition with Earth on the 10th, the King of the planets will remain visible throughout the month. However, even though Jupiter’s angular diameter is now a respectable 46 seconds of arc, the planet is located in the southern reaches of the ecliptic. It will therefore not rise above about 14 degrees as viewed from central England. Nonetheless, observers using atmospheric dispersion correctors may be able to view the Great Red Spot on the planets’ meridian on the 1st (at 22:57 UT), 5th (at 23:18 UT), 13th (at 22:49 UT), and 25th (at 22:42 UT), and 30th (at 21:49 UT).

Saturn is also approaching a point of opposition, which it will reach on the 9th of June. Its brightness will subsequently increase from magnitude +0.3 to magnitude +0.1 as the month wears on. However, like Jupiter, Saturn is now in the southern half of the ecliptic and it will therefore not rise above about 14 or so degrees above the southern horizon. Therefore, the use of an atmospheric dispersion corrector will be required to obtain clear views of the ring system.

Meteor Showers in June Night Sky 2019

The June Boötids is the only meteor shower that is expected to occur this month. Although this shower is associated with the debris trail of Comet Pons-Winnecke, the first meteor activity associated with the debris trail was only recorded for the first time in 1916.

This shower is expected to peak between June 26th and July 2nd. While it has previously been noted for occasional outbursts, the highest number of meteors that can be expected this year (or most other years) is just 2 per hour.

Deep Sky Objects to Look For In June Night Sky 2019

In June, the constellation Draco is now almost directly overhead. This constellation does not always get the attention it deserves, as it is perhaps not the biggest or prettiest of all the constellations. Nevertheless, it does contain many deep sky objects that are worth hunting down, such as the ones listed below.

Cat’s Eye Nebula – NGC 6543 (Caldwell 6)

Cat’s Eye Nebula
Image: Hubble Space Telescope

Located about 3,300 light years away, the 1000-year old Cat’s Eye Nebula is one of the most complex planetary nebulae ever discovered. While it is not known what exactly caused the ripple effect that is so clearly visible in this image, many investigators believe that the central star is in fact a binary star. Hence the powerful solar wind that blows about 20 trillion tons worth of material into space every second. Moreover, even though the central star is estimated to be roughly as massive as the Sun, it is at least 10,000 times more luminous than our Sun.

Spindle Galaxy – Messier 102 – NGC 5866

Spindle Galaxy
Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI, AURA)

This galaxy is seen exactly edge-on, which explains its spindle-like appearance. However, while the exact structure of the Spindle Galaxy in not known with any degree of certainty, the sideways view does reveal its overall shape. This suggests that it is either a lenticular galaxy, or more likely, a spiral galaxy due to the pronounced dust lane that encircles the galaxy. Regardless of its structure, the Spindle galaxy is among the most luminous galaxies in the NGC 5866 group of galaxies. The latter also contains two other spiral galaxies- NGC 5879 and NGC 5907.

Abell 2218

Abell 2218
Image: Andrew Fruchter (STScI) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

This cluster of galaxies contains several thousand members that collectively weigh about as much as 10,000 Milky Way galaxies. Located about 2.3 million light years away, this cluster of galaxies is massive enough to function as a gravitational lens. In fact, it was used as a lens to detect the most distant known object in the Universe; a 13-billion year old galaxy called GN-z11 that is estimated to have formed only around 750 million years after the Big Bang.

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