The highlight of June comes on Tuesday night, June 18.  There will be a double conjunction.  Look west after sunset.  The red planet, Mars, and the fastest planet, Mercury, will meet low in the west.  We can see this great event with the naked eye, but it will look even better with binoculars. Later that same evening at about 11:45 pm the moon will rise in the east with Saturn right next to it.

There will be a rocket launch on June 11 at Vandenberg

Air Force Base.  The rocket will be putting into orbit three very sophisticated satellites for Canada.  These satellites will be watching Earth’s temperature in order to see how climate change is affecting our planet.  This event will be visible to all of Southern California but the exact time has not been announced.  Check either Nighttrek on Facebook or Vandenberg’s website for up-to-date information.

One of the great sights of June will be the Noctilucent clouds.   These are very high clouds that are 50 to 60 miles above Earth, which is nearly at the edge of outer space.  Noctilucent clouds consist of ice crystals and are only visible during twilight. Noctilucent roughly means “night shining” in Latin. Anyone who has ever seen them agree that they resemble something out of a science fiction movie.

The giant planet, Jupiter, shows up in the east after 10 pm in June.  Jupiter has 79 moons.  The four biggest moons are the Galilean moons after being discovered by Galileo in 1610 CE.  These four moons are visible with binoculars.

June’s full moon on the 17th is known as the Strawberry Moon according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.  The strawberry flower first appears in April and fully matures in June. This full moon originally got its name from the Algonquin tribes in eastern North America who knew it as a signal to gather the ripening fruit of wild strawberries.   In Europe, it is known as the Rose moon.

Every night in June, one of the closest stars to us, Vega, is extremely bright in the northeast.  Vega is the fifth brightest star.  Vega is spinning at very high speeds compared to our sun.  Our sun rotates on its axis once every month compared to Vega which rotates 8000 times in one month.  Vega’s rapid rotation causes the star to bulge considerably at its equator.

Mark your calendar for June 6 to see a thin, beautiful, crescent moon next to the planet Mars.  This will be visible low in the west.

One of the easiest constellations to see in June is Corvus, the Crow.  Corvus is low in the south and appears to be a simple four sided box. Nearby are also the constellations Hydra the Snake and Crater the Cup. 

A popular legend associated with these three constellations is that Corvus the crow stopped to eat figs on his way to fetch water for Apollo.   Instead of telling the truth to Apollo, he lied and said that a snake, Hydra, kept him from the water, while holding a snake in his talons as proof. Apollo, realizing this was a lie, flung the crow (Corvus), the cup (Crater), and the snake (Hydra) into the sky. He further punished the wayward bird by ensuring it would forever be thirsty, since Crater the Cup is just out of reach.

A USC team of engineering students won the collegiate space race by sending a rocket above the Kármán line, the imaginary boundary that marks the end of Earth’s atmosphere at 62 miles.  The students named this rocket Traveller IV in honor of USC’s mascot.   The rocket was launched from the Virgin Galactic Space Port in New Mexico.  Congratulations Trojans!

On Wednesday, June 5, the International Space Station makes a good pass above us at 9:11 PM.  Look northwest and watch as it moves directly overhead at 9:14 PM.  A few moments later it will disappear into the shadow of the Earth.  The ISS is traveling at 17,200 miles per hour and there six astronauts on board.

There will be a FREE Star Party on Saturday, June 29, starting at dusk in the hills of Thousand Oaks off of Lynn Road.  

When not star-gazing, Neill Simmons is a wealth advisor with LPL Financial.  If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at 818-936-2626 or neill.simmons@lpl.com