The Night Sky in June, 2017

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1 The Night Sky in June, 2017 We have recently returned from a very enjoyable holiday in Northumberland. One of the highlights was a visit to the Kielder Observatory which is located near Kielder village in the Kielder National Park. This region has some of the darkest skies in England and The International Dark Skies Association (IDA) has given it gold tier status. It was the first dark sky park in England and is the third largest in the world. The observatory runs stargazing events all the year round. The event we went to started at 20:30 and ended at 23:30. To attend an evening event you need to book in advance which you can do on their website ( The evening began with excellent presentations and then, after dark, we enjoyed panoramic views of the night sky and got the chance to look through their 16 inch telescopes. We had a magnificent view of Jupiter and its 4 Galilean moons through these. The whole evening was fascinating and we highly recommend a visit there if you get the chance. Before the event we had an excellent dinner at a nearby inn - the Pheasant Inn at Stannersburn ( They also do B&B. June is not a good month for stargazing since the sky never goes completely dark. The first half of the month will also be spoilt by the Moon which is full on June 9 th. So why not do some Moon gazing? The images below show some of the features on the Moon. The image on the left shows the seas and some of the craters. If you have a telescope or a powerful pair of binoculars I recommend that you have a look at the craters, particularly Copernicus. The image on the right shows the location of some of the mountain ranges particularly the Apennines, the Caucasus mountains and the Alps all near Mare Serenitatis. If you have a telescope you could try imaging these features. The planet of the month is Saturn the jewel of the Solar System. It will be at opposition on June 15 th when it will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun and will be at its brightest. It is in the constellation of Ophiuchus but is unfortunately quite low on the Southern horizon for us. The Moon will not spoil the view as can be seen in the star chart below which shows the sky in the south at 23:50 on June 15 th. Saturn will be quite bright with a magnitude of 0.0. Remember that magnitude is like golfing handicaps. The lower the magnitude the brighter the star. The brightest star in the night sky is Sirius with a magnitude of The pole star Polaris is not as bright as many people expect it to be and has a magnitude of

2 Saturn is bright because its rings are very nicely tilted toward us as can be seen in the image below. This image also shows some of the moons of Saturn. The largest moon Titan has a magnitude of +8.7 and can be seen in a small telescope under dark, clear skies. Note that in the star chart above, the top of the constellation of Scorpius can be seen to the right of Saturn. This contains the red supergiant star Antares which is the 16 th brightest star in the in the sky and has a magnitude of Note that Jupiter is still in our night sky. It is in the constellation of Virgo as can be seen in the star chart below. This shows the sky in the south at 23:59:55 on June 3 rd. Note that there are two photo opportunities in the sky on this date. Jupiter has a very close encounter with the Moon shown herein the southwest. This encounter can be nicely framed in binoculars or a small telescope with a magnification less than x50. You can also try photographing it with your digital camera on a tripod. Make the most of Jupiter during the early part of the month since it will dim slightly throughout the rest of the month and its apparent size will also decrease You can also see on the left of the star chart below, that the International Space Station (ISS) is passing through the constellation of Ophiuchus above Saturn! To get the exact time when the ISS will be passing over you, go to the website and enter your latitude, longitude and the date. This will tell you when and where the ISS will appear and disappear.

3 June and July are the best months to try to see noctilucent clouds. These are iridescent clouds as shown in the image on the left below. Noctilucent comes from the Latin word meaning night shining. These clouds form very high up in the atmosphere in the mesosphere at about 80kms up as shown in the image on the right. Look for them low down in the northwest about minutes after sunset. Even though the sun has set, its light is reflected off the fine dust in the mesosphere. Noctilucent clouds can also be seen minutes before sunrise low down in the southeast. But don t be disappointed if you can t see them since their appearance is not guaranteed. There is a total eclipse of the Sun across the USA on August 21 st. In the UK, we will see a partial eclipse around sunset. Remember to be careful when you look at the Sun. I have seen some adverts in the astronomy magazines this month which may be of interest to you if you don t have a solar telescope. You can buy a pair of 6x30mm Lunt solar binoculars for the remarkably cheap price of 42 from website You can also get solar filters for your camera or telescope made by Thousand Oaks Optical. Alternatively, you can make your own filters usual Baader s AstroSolar Safety Film. Have a search on Amazon to see a range of available products. Now to the Southern Hemisphere!

4 What's Up in the Southern Hemisphere? For those of you in the southern hemisphere, it may be difficult to visit the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland! However, if you are in Australia you can have the privilege of visiting the Siding Spring Observatory situated in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran in New South Wales. It is part of the Research School of Astronomy at the Australian National University. Situated there is the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) which has a 3.9 metre dish and the UK Schmidt Telescope (UKST) which has a 1.2 metre dish. We enjoyed a wonderful visit there in There is a visitors gallery and exhibition area open to the public. Guided tours are given there during school holidays. An Open Day is held annually during the long weekend in October. Apart from visiting the telescopes, you get to enjoy the surrounding scenery as shown in the image below. You can enjoy a close encounter of Jupiter with the Moon as shown in the star chart below which shows the sky in the north over Sydney on June 3 rd at 20:00. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo and nearby you can see Coma Berenices. This region is rich in Messier objects. M64 the Black Eye Galaxy shown in the image below is very popular with amateur astronomers. This spiral galaxy is 17 million light years away. It has a dark dust cloud situated near the centre of the galaxy which is 40,000 light years in diameter and gives the appearance of a black eye. The galaxy can just be seen with 7x35 binoculars and looks magnificent through a small telescope.

5 To the left of the star chart above you can see the constellation of Leo the Lion with the head of the lion (the sickle) pointing downwards. Here you can see the famous Leo Triplet of galaxies. The start chart below shows the sky in the east over Sydney at 20:00 on June 15 th. You can see Saturn in the constellation of Ophiuchus high in the east. Above it is the constellation of Scorpius and below it is Sagittarius. This region is rich in Messier objects. I particularly enjoy looking at M8 the Lagoon Nebula (on the left below) and M20 the Trifid Nebula (on the right). The distance to M8 is about 4,100 light years and to M20 is 5,200 light years. That is all for now. Until next month, happy stargazing and dark skies! Valerie Calderbank FRAS

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