Night sky in June

TOM WHELAN
Last updated 08:01 31/05/2012

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Night Sky

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The transit of Venus: On June 6, Venus will appear to pass across the northern hemisphere of the Sun. The event starts at 10.15am and is over by 4.43pm. Do NOT look at the Sun, you will go blind! Use a telescope to project the Sun's image on to a white card and Venus will appear as a black dot against the surface of the Sun.

Sun: June 21 brings the winter solstice, with the Sun furthest north of equator and at its lowest elevation for the year.

Moon: The full Moon is on June 4, followed by the first quarter on June 11. The new Moon is on June 20 with the first quarter falling on June 27. There is a partial lunar eclipse with this month's full Moon, starting just before 9pm and finishing about 1am the next day. About one third of the Moon will be covered by the umbra, or complete shadow of the Earth.

Planets

Mercury is in the evening sky throughout June, setting about two hours after the Sun by the month's end. Look to the northwest, low down in the sky. On June 21 and 22, the crescent Moon will appear within seven degrees of the planet.

Venus moves into the morning sky and by late in the month will be visible around an hour before sunrise. Face towards the eastern horizon to locate it.

Mars is due directly north about 7pm and remains in the evening sky until midnight. On June 26, the Moon comes within four degrees of Mars.

Jupiter is in the morning sky and will be easy to find from about 6am. There will be a nice grouping of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter on June 17 and 18.

Saturn remains visible throughout most of the night. About 9pm, look due north and midway up the sky for a bright, yellowish star. Just above Saturn is Spica, the main star of Virgo.

Stars and constellations

The first appearance in the dawn sky of the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, marks Matariki, recognised by many as the start of the Maori New Year.

June also brings the winter sky, with the Milky Way stretching from east to west and passing almost through the zenith.

The Southern Cross is at its highest point for the year. Canopus is low in the southwest, while Achernar is directly south, barely above the horizon.

Towards the west, the last of the summer stars are setting.

The eastern sky contains the two great winter constellations - Scorpius and Sagittarius.

Two stars stand out in the north. The higher of the two is Spica. Lower down is Arcturus, principal star of Bootes.

zPrepared for The Taranaki Daily News by Tom Whelan, Cape Egmont Observatory.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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