WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY
AAA Observers’ Guide
By Tony Faddoul
June’s Evening Planets: Red Mars will be in Taurus the Bull and Gemini the Twins until around 9 PM. Jupiter will be in Virgo the Maiden all night. Saturn will be in Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer after midnight and rising earlier every night until 10 PM by the end of June.
June’s Evening Stars: Spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. Look for reddish Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion, Arcturus in Boötes the Herdsman, and Spica in Virgo, along with the stars of constellations Lyra, Hercules, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Libra, Cepheus, Ophiuchus, Cassiopeia, Draco, and Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the Big and Little Dippers).
June’s Morning Planets: Bright Venus can be found moving between Pisces the Fish and Taurus throughout June as of 3 AM. Jupiter will be in Virgo until 3 AM, setting earlier every morning, and Saturn will be in Ophiuchus until sunrise. Find Mercury in Taurus as of 5 AM during the first half of June. Neptune is in Aquarius the Water Bearer as of 4 AM, rising earlier each night. Uranus will be in Pisces beginning at 4 AM and rising earlier throughout the month. Pluto is in Sagittarius the Archer until sunrise.
June’s Morning Stars: The Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus, and Altair in Aquila will be up until sunrise. Look for Antares in Scorpius and Arcturus in Boötes, along with the stars of constellations Hercules, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Pegasus, Perseus, Andromeda, Capricornus, Cepheus, Ophiuchus, Cassiopeia, Draco, and the two Dippers.
Jun 1 First Quarter Moon at 8:45 AM
Jun 8 Moon at apogee (252,500 miles away)
Jun 9 Full Moon at 9:10 AM
Moon 3° north of Saturn at sunset
Jun 15 Saturn at opposition; brightest in 2017
Jun 17 Last Quarter Moon at 7:30 AM
Jun 21 Summer solstice at midnight
Jun 23 New Moon at 10:30 PM
Jun 23 Moon at perigee (222,400 miles away)
Jun 30 First Quarter Moon at 8:50 PM
Sagittarius and the Milky Way
The constellation Sagittarius the Archer can be found in the spring and summer night skies of the northern hemisphere. One of the Zodiac constellations of the ecliptic path, Sagitta-rius is also one of the original 48 constellations first listed by the Ancient astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD.
Where is Sagittarius?
About 125 light years away, its brightest star, epsilon Sagittarii, is about 275 time larger than the Sun and 360 times brighter. Typically, the name alpha is reserved for a constellation’s brightest star, but 17th century cartographer Johann Bayer, made an exception, with Sagittarius, not following his own naming convention.
How Can I Find Sagittarius?
Although the constellation represents an Archer among the Ancients, Sagittarius is commonly identified in the sky in the shape of a teapot, formed by an asterism of its brightest stars. You can spot Sagittarius toward the south, moving from east to west close to the horizon.
Let Sagittarius Be Your Guide
Sagittarius can help locate deep sky objects. It points to the galactic center of the Milky Way, just west of the Archer. In the densest part of the galaxy, Sagittarius hosts several star clusters and nebulae, including the Lagoon Nebula (M8), Omega Nebula (M17) and the Trifid Nebula (M20). It is also home to the first globular cluster discovered outside the Milky Way – the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy.
For the past 7 years, Sagittarius has also hosted dwarf planet Pluto. Moving across the constellation, Pluto will remain in Sagittarius until it makes its way to Capricornus by around 2025.
Sagittarius in Mythology
In Greco-Roman mythology, Sagittarius depicts a centaur, half man and half horse. There is some confusion around its identity, but many believe it depicts Chiron, king of the centaurs. Chiron was a wise educator, skilled in archery, music, and science. One day, Heracles and the centaur Pholus came under attack by a group of intoxicated centaurs. During the battle, one of Heracles’ poison-tipped arrows shot Chiron by mistake. An immortal, Chiron did not die, but he could not heal his wound. To end his pain, Zeus, the king of gods, allowed Chiron to die and placed him in the sky.
However, some believe that Chiron is depicted instead by the constellation Centaurus. Sagittarius has also been identified as Crotus, a satyr with a human head and a goat’s body. A skilled musician and hunter, he is credited as the inventor of archery. In gratitude, Zeus placed him among the stars.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica; space.com; timeanddate.com; earthsky.com