The Night Sky in June, 2016

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1 The Night Sky in June, 2016 We are in June already and on the 21 st it will be the Summer Solstice! It is hard to believe that it is mid-summer when the Summer seems to have only just started in the UK! It is a bad time of the year for stargazing since the sky is never completely dark. Also, there will be a Full Moon on June 20 th which will make the sky even lighter. But the New Moon will be on June 5 th so from the beginning to the middle of the month we are going to be treated to a magnificent display of the brilliant planets Saturn, Mars and Jupiter as can be seen in the star chart below. This shows the sky in the South and South West over Oxfordshire on June 1 st at 23:00 BST. The star chart below shows the sky in the same direction and at the same time on June 15 th. You can see the Moon is almost full and is situated between Mars and Jupiter and so will spoil the view.

2 The good news this month is that Saturn is at opposition on June 3 rd. This means it will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun and therefore will be very bright. Unfortunately it is low on the southern horizon so the light from it must pass through a thick layer of atmosphere which will give a blurred image. The first star chart above shows its position at 23:00 BST on June 1 st but it will be in a similar position on the 3 rd at the same time. It is actually in the little known constellation of Ophiuchus but just to the East of the constellation of Scorpius. Scorpius is best seen in the Southern Hemisphere but, in the Summer months in the UK, we can see more of it than we usually do. Below is the sky in the South on June 1 st with the image of the Scorpion superimposed on it. Note that Mars is to the West of Scorpius but is actually in the constellation of Libra. Saturn will appear like a yellowish star to the naked eye. With a powerful pair of binoculars, you may just be able to make out the bulge of the rings. However, with a 3inch refractor you will get a good view of the rings. A refractor is a telescope which uses lenses to magnify the image rather than mirrors which reflectors use. A 3inch refractor has a tube diameter of 3 inches and you can buy one of these for about 100 including the tripod. The image below shows you what Saturn will look like at 23:00 BST on June 1 st. Its northern pole is tipped towards the Earth at an angle of 26 which means there will be a good view of the rings. Note that there are three broad rings, the outer one being the A ring, the next the B ring and the inner one the C ring. The A ring is separated from the B ring by a dark band called the Cassini division. Cassini ( ) was an Italian

3 mathematician and astronomer who did most of his work in France. The first spacecraft to orbit Saturn was named after him. This spacecraft is still in orbit and has beamed many stunning images of Saturn to us. Its mission will end on September 15 th, 2017 when it will be crashed into the atmosphere of the planet to destroy it. Before doing so however it will pass between the rings and the planet which has never been done before. Saturn has 62 moons in total and with a small telescope you should be able to see the largest of them Titan and Rhea. With our 12 inch Dobsonian telescope and dark skies we can see as many as 7 of Saturn's Moons. Information about Saturn, its rings, its moons and some spacecraft that have visited is given in the image below courtesy of ESA (the European Space Agency).

4 The star chart below shows the sky in the East at 23:00 on June 1 st. Here you will see the Summer Triangle rising. The brightest star in the Summer sky, Vega, can be seen at the top in the constellation of Lyra. At the bottom right you can just see the star Altair in the constellation Aquila. To the left is the star Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. This constellation is also known as the Northern Cross. Have a look at the star Albireo at the bottom of the cross, shown in the centre of the above chart. This is the most spectacular double star in the northern sky as can be seen in the image below. You won t be able to see the two stars with your naked eye or binoculars. But you will be able to resolve them in a small telescope. Alternatively, try imaging it with your camera on a tripod. You will be stunned by the brilliance of the colour of the stars the smallest being bright blue and the largest a yellow gold. Now on to the Southern sky!

5 What's Up in the Southern Hemisphere? You lucky people! The star chart below shows the sky you can see over Sydney at 23:00 on June 1 st. At the top is Mars with the constellation of Scorpius just below it. You can see the whole of Scorpius in all its glory. Immediately below Scorpius is Saturn. Below that is the magnificent constellation of Sagittarius with its rich collection of Messier objects. Messier objects are blurred objects in the sky, catalogued by the 18 th Century French astronomer Charles Messier. An object can be one of three things either a star cluster, a planetary nebula or a remote galaxy. Many examples of the first two can be seen in Sagittarius. A star cluster is a group of stars all born out of the same cloud of gas at the same time. A beautiful example is the Butterfly Cluster, M6, shown below. Can you see the body and wings of the butterfly? A planetary nebula is nothing to do with planets but is a cloud of Hydrogen gas. The Lagoon Nebula, M8, seen below is a good example. This is a gigantic star factory like the

6 Orion Nebula. New stars are being born out of it and the Ultraviolet light emitted by the stars causes the gas to emit light. Thus it is called an emission nebula. Finally, the image below shows you what Saturn will look like through a telescope. Note that the planet seems upside down compared with the view in the Northern hemisphere. Also note the difference in the position of the moons. That is all for now. Until next month, happy stargazing and dark skies! Valerie Calderbank FRAS

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