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June Star Map

Printable quality Star Map Click Here

Instructions for using the star map Click Here

 

Later but Warmer June Stargazing

The summer solstice, also known as the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, is on June 21st. It marks the longest day of the year, as well as the shortest night.  Sunsets are much later so your stargazing adventures are a late-night affair. Make sure to get your afternoon nap so you can enjoy the show!

The marquee event this month is an annular total solar eclipse on June 10th, visible in from eastern Russia to eastern Canada. This is an unusual total eclipse though because the moon’s disk will be too small to cover the entire disk of the sun. This is called an annular total solar eclipse. The moon’s disk isn’t large enough because the eclipse is occurring during the moon’s monthly maximum distance from Earth. During totality the sun will look like a bright donut.

We won’t have a total solar eclipse on June 10th anywhere around here but we will have a partial solar eclipse. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, the eclipse will begin a little before 4 am. Don’t set your alarm, because obviously, the sun won’t be up by then! By the time the sun rises a little after 5:26 am, the sun will already be about twenty percent covered up on the lower left side of the sun’s disk. Not only will that be the peak of the eclipse for us, but by 5:47 am it’ll all be over as the moon’s disk backs out. Them’s the breaks!

As with any eclipse, you never want to stare directly at the sun! You can easily do permanent damage to your eyes in a very short time. With binoculars or a telescope, you could go permanently blind in less than a second! The only way to view it directly with special eclipse glasses. Maybe you still have a pair around the house from the 2017 eclipse. If you don’t have those glasses to view it is the projection method. As you see in the diagram, hold a piece of white cardboard with a pinhole in it over another piece of stiff white cardboard. White fiberboard works well too. The best and safest way to aim the piece with the pinhole at the black card is to stand with your back to the sun and hold the pinhole piece back toward the sun. Use the shadow of the cardboard to aim it over the blank cardboard and you should be able to see the eclipse with absolutely no danger. It really works!

As with any eclipse, you never want to stare directly at the sun! You can easily do permanent damage to your eyes in a very short time. With binoculars or a telescope, you could go permanently blind in less than a second! The only way to view it directly with special eclipse glasses. Maybe you still have a pair around the house from the 2017 eclipse. If you don’t have those glasses to view it is the projection method. As you see in the diagram, hold a piece of white cardboard with a pinhole in it over another piece of stiff white cardboard. White fiberboard works well too. The best and safest way to aim the piece with the pinhole at the black card is to stand with your back to the sun and hold the pinhole piece back toward the sun. Use the shadow of the cardboard to aim it over the blank cardboard and you should be able to see the eclipse with absolutely no danger. It really works!

Believe it or not, there are still some bright winter stars hanging in there in the low western sky in the neighborhood of Mars and Venus. Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini are conspicuously shining close to each other. The very bright star Capella is also nearby, barely above the northwest horizon.

It’s so much fun to stargaze comfortably in the warmer weather, lying back in a reclining lawn chair. Look straight overhead toward the zenith. You’ll easily see the Big Dipper. In your mind’s eye, extend the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle beyond the end of the handle, and you’ll run right into a very bright star with an orange hue. That’s Arcturus. Just remember the stargazing adage, “arc to Arcturus.” It’s the second brightest star in the evening sky and the brightest star seen in the summer. Arcturus is about 36 light-years away, which works out to around 208 trillion miles.  Arcturus is a red-giant star, well over 21 million miles in diameter. Our own home star, the Sun, isn’t even a million miles in diameter! Arcturus is also the brightest star in the constellation Bootes the hunting farmer, which looks more like a giant nocturnal kite with Arcturus at the tail of the kite.

Early June evenings bring us the Summer Triangle,  on the rise in the east. It’s so easy to see. Just look for the three brightest stars you can see in the east, and that’s it. The Summer Triangle is not an official constellation but rather a great asterism that will help you locate at least three constellations. Each of the three stars is the brightest in its respective constellations. Vega is the brightest star in the small constellation Lyra the Lyre. The second brightest is Altair, in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. The least bright is Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus the Swan. Looks can be deceiving, though. Even though Deneb is the faintest star of the trio, it’s a super-colossal star kicking out more than 50,000 times more light than our sun. It’s doesn’t look that bright because it’s at least 1,400 light-years away, and possibly much, much farther!

If you’re a super early riser, the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn are waiting for you in the low southeast skies in the mornings. They’re the brightest star-like objects you can see in that part of the sky. Jupiter’s the brightest one on the left.

Jupiter is now around 437 million miles from Earth. And with a small telescope it’s a lot of fun to look at. You can easily see up to four of its orbiting moons that resemble tiny stars on either side of the planet. You might even see some of Jupiter’s cloud bands stretching across the 88,000 mile-wide planet.

Even though it’s well over 850 million miles away, Saturn is even more of a telescope treat! You can see the massive icy ring system that stretches over 136,000 miles. On average, though, the ring system is only about 50 feet thick.

Enjoy your special time under the stars this month!

 

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and is author of the book, “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations” published by Adventure Publications. Available at bookstores and online at www.adventurepublications.net.

If you have any astronomical questions or want me to write about something you’re seeing in the night sky drop me a line at mikewlynch@comcast.net