By Neill Simmons
The highlight of June comes on June 4 when the planet Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun. This means the bright planet stays up in the west until almost midnight. Venus has been putting on quite a show! During this time, Venus, along with Mars and the twin stars, Pollux and Castor, in the constellation of Gemini, are all aligned in a row. In the same area as the red planet, Mars, look to see the beehive star cluster known as M44. This is visible with binoculars.
On June 20 and 21, Venus’ neighbor will be the thin crescent Moon. It will be a beautiful sight.
On June 4 the full Strawberry Moon rises in the east. The Native American tribes knew that this month would provide the first taste of this delicious fruit, hence the name.
June is a special month to see the rare noctilucent clouds. Noctilucent clouds are rare high-altitude clouds that can be seen under specific conditions. They appear during the summer months, after sunset, as thin wispy blue/silver streaks ‘dancing’ across the sky.
DAWN PATROL: The planets Jupiter and Saturn are up in the early morning sky at 5 am. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Jupiter is so big that all the other planets in the solar system could fit inside it. Also, more than 1,300 Earths would fit inside Jupiter!
June brings a tiny bright constellation in the northwest sky called Lyra the Harp. This constellation looks like a parallelogram. It is easy to spot as it has the fifth-brightest star, Vega, within it. Because the Earth’s axis wobbles, the pole star slowly changes over thousands of years. Vega was the pole star 12,000 years ago and it will again be the pole star in 12,000 more years. For now, we will follow Polaris, our North Star in the handle of the Little Dipper, also called Ursa Minor.
Nearby Vega is the fourth brightest star, Arcturus. It is orange in color and is easy to spot within the constellation Bootes. Arcturus’ diameter is 25 times greater than our sun and radiates more than 100 times the light of our sun.
SPACE NEWS: The China National Space Administration announced plans to place astronauts on the Moon before 2030. The CNSA also plans to expand its orbiting space station.
Mark your calendar for Friday, June 2, at 8:42 pm. when the International Space Station (ISS) will be visible over Southern California for seven minutes! Look northwest as it moves across the night sky. As it passes the ISS will be moving towards the east and will be visible in Las Vegas within one minute. Remember, the ISS travels at the speed of 17,150 miles per hour – that’s five miles per second!
Vandenberg SFB plans to launch a rocket on June 8. Check their website for the exact time.
STAR PARTY: If you are planning to go to the Grand Canyon in June, there will be a full one week “Star Party” from June 10 until 17. The National Park Service will host at both the north and south rims and it is free.
When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is a Wealth Advisor with LPL Financial in Woodland Hills. If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.