Tag Archives: Moon

NASA Night Sky Notes: Jupiter Shines In June

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting by the Night Sky Network in June, 2019.

By David Prosper

Jupiter stakes its claim as the king of the planets in June, shining bright all night. Saturn trails behind Jupiter, and the Moon passes by both planets mid-month. Mercury puts on its best evening appearance in 2019 late in the month, outshining nearby Mars at sunset.

Jupiter is visible almost the entire evening this month. Earth will be between Jupiter and the Sun on June 10, meaning Jupiter is at opposition. On that date, Jupiter rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west, remaining visible the entire night. Jupiter will be one of the brightest objects in the night sky, shining at magnitude -2.6. Its four largest moons and cloud bands are easily spotted with even a small telescope.

What if your sky is cloudy or you don’t have a telescope? See far more of Jupiter than we can observe from Earth with NASA’s Juno mission! Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, swooping mere thousands of miles above its cloud tops in its extremely elliptical polar orbits, which take the probe over 5 million miles away at its furthest point! These extreme orbits minimize Juno’s exposure to Jupiter’s powerful radiation as it studies the gas giant’s internal structure, especially its intense magnetic fields. Juno’s hardy JunoCam instrument takes incredible photos of Jupiter’s raging storms during its flybys. All of the images are available to the public, and citizen scientists are doing amazing things with them. You can too! Find out more at bit.ly/JunoCam

Saturn rises about two hours after Jupiter and is visible before midnight. The ringed planet rises earlier each evening as its own opposition approaches in July. The Moon appears near both gas giants mid-month. The Moon’s tour begins on June 16 as it approaches Jupiter, and its visit ends on June 19 after swinging past Saturn.

Mercury is back in evening skies and will be highest after sunset on June 23, just two days after the summer solstice! Spot it low in the western horizon, close to the much dimmer and redder Mars. This is your best chance this year to spot Mercury in the evening, and nearly your last chance to see Mars, too! The two smallest planets of our solar system pass close to each other the evenings of June 17-18, coming within just ¼ degree, or half the width of a full Moon, making for a potentially great landscape photo at twilight.

Discover more about NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov

A giant storm in Jupiter’s north polar region, captured by JunoCam on February 4, 2019. Image processing performed by citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran. Source: bit.ly/JupiterSpiral
Mars and Mercury after sunset the evenings of June 17-18, 2019. Image created with assistance from Stellarium.

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Apollo Special Part 1! Free Astronomy Magazine – May-June 2019 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (May-June 2019) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure at www.astropublishing.com (click the link to go directly to the issue).

This month features the first of a two-part series in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 10 and 11 missions that found us first visiting (10) and then landing (11) on the Moon. As if the gorgeous selection of images for the Apollo article was not enough, the issue includes its usual wonderful selection of NASA/ESA/ALMA astronomy and space science articles.

Free Astronomy Magazine (website, facebook) was featured as the first of a series of articles on great free online content for amateur astronomers (see A Universe Of Free Resources Part 1) and we’ll be keeping track of future publications under the Online Resources category on the CNYO website.

You can find previous Free Astronomy Magazine issues by checking out our Free Astronomy Magazine Category (or look under the Education link in our menu).

For those wanting a quick look at what the issue has to offer, the Table of Contents is reproduced below.


May-June 2019

The web browser-readable version of the issue can be found here:

May-June 2019 – www.astropublishing.com/3FAM2019/

For those who want to jump right to the PDF download (20 MB), Click here:

May-June 2019

NASA Night Sky Notes: Watching The Late Spring Skies

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting by the Night Sky Network in May, 2019.

By David Prosper

Late spring brings warmer nights, making it more comfortable to observe a good showing of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower. Skywatchers can also look for the delicate Coma Star Cluster, and spot the Moon on the anniversary of Apollo 10’s “test run” prior to the Moon landing in 1969.

The Eta Aquarids meteor shower should make a good showing this year, peaking the morning of May 6. This meteor shower has an unusual “soft peak,” meaning that many meteors can be spotted several days before and after the 6th; many may find it convenient to schedule meteor watching for the weekend, a night or two before the peak. You may be able to spot a couple dozen meteors an hour from areas with clear dark skies. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky and you don’t need any special equipment to view them; just find an area away from lights, lie down on a comfy lawn chair or blanket, relax, and patiently look up. These brief bright streaks are caused by Earth moving through the stream of fine dust particles left by the passage of Comet Halley. While we have to wait another 43 years for the famous comet grace our skies once more, we are treated to this beautiful cosmic postcard every year.

While you’re up meteor watching, try to find a delightful naked eye star cluster: the Coma Star Cluster (aka Melotte 111) in the small constellation of Coma Berenices. It can be spotted after sunset in the east and for almost the entire night during the month of May. Look for it inside the area of the sky roughly framed between the constellations of Leo, Boötes, and Ursa Major. The cluster’s sparkly members are also known as “Berenice’s Hair” in honor of Egyptian Queen Berenices II’s sacrifice of her lovely tresses.  Binoculars will bring out even more stars in this large young cluster.

May marks the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Module’s test run by the Apollo 10 mission! On May 22, 1969, NASA astronauts Thomas Safford and Eugene Cernan piloted the Lunar Module – nicknamed “Snoopy” – on a test descent towards the lunar surface. Undocking from “Charlie Brown” – the Command Module, piloted by John Young – they descended to 47,400 feet above the surface of the Moon before returning safely to the orbiting Command Module. Their success paved the way for the first humans to land on the Moon later that year with Apollo 11. Look for the Moon on the morning of May 22, before or after dawn, and contemplate what it must have felt like to hover mere miles above the lunar surface. You’ll also see the bright giant planets Saturn and Jupiter on either side of the Moon before sunrise. When will humans travel to those distant worlds?

You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov

A view of Apollo 10’s Lunar Module from the Command Module as it returned from maneuvers above the lunar surface. Photo Credit: NASA; Source: http://bit.ly/apollo10view
Try to spot the Coma Star Cluster!  Image created with assistance from Stellarium

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!