Moon and planet pairings at dawn and dusk. Spot elusive Mercury. Some comets. And more.
What’s Up for June. Moon and planet pairings at dawn and dusk. Spot elusive Mercury. Some comets. And more. Hello and welcome. I’m Jane Houston Jones from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Look for Mercury low in the west-northwest sky just after sunset at the beginning of the month. You’ll find it to the lower right of Jupiter. On June 29 and 30 try to spot Jupiter very low on the sunset horizon, below the crescent moon.
It’s easy to spot Saturn and Mars when they pair up with the moon. Mars appears to the left of the moon on June 6th, directly above the moon on the 7th, and to the right of the moon on the 8th. And you’ll find Saturn above the moon on June 10th and 11th. From a dark sky, you’ll see the constellation Scorpius rising below the moon and Saturn.
At dawn, Venus is the bright object just to the left of the moon. The Pleiades star cluster should be visible just above it.
Speaking of dawn, the Dawn spacecraft’s two targets, Vesta and Ceres, appear very close to one another in the night sky again this month. Vesta is the brighter of the two, reflecting more light from its surface than Ceres. From June 29th through July 12th the two objects appear only half a degree apart! That’s the apparent width of the full moon. You can spot these objects with binoculars or telescopes. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrives at Ceres in 2015.
Comet PanSTARRS is still visible in telescopes this month, shining at magnitude 8. Astrophotographers will get a chance to image the comet, together with a beautiful and faint spiral galaxy: NGC 3184.
Several faint periodic comets are visible through telescopes this month, too. Comet 209P LINEAR, P/1998 U3 Jager and 154P Brewington.
Comet Siding Spring, discovered by Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, is visible low in the spring sky, in the constellation Fornax. On October 19th, this comet intersects the orbit of Mars and continues to be visible through October.
You can learn about how NASA studies comets, Mars and Saturn and all of NASA’s missions at www.nasa.gov.
That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.