Tag Archives: Stellarium

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!

“Upstate NY Stargazing In September” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

With the summer nearly over and long nights replaced by early school bus mornings, the UNY Stargazing series has returned to its regularly-scheduled monthly publishing.

The latest article in the Upstate NY Stargazing series, “Upstate NY stargazing in September: Cassini’s end and morning planet delights,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

Direct Links: newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com

The Great American Eclipse for 2017 has come and gone without major reported inconvenience to the cities that ended up hosting large groups. This is good news for Western and Upstate New York, as we will be participants in the observation of totality on April 8, 2024 and have to contend with potential crowds on top of whatever weather early April brings that year. In the meantime, if you still have your eclipse glasses, you can give others an opportunity to enjoy upcoming total eclipses in South America and Asia in 2019. Consider donating your glasses to the great outreach organization Astronomers Without Borders – see the link for all the details.

Caption:The tail end of the August 21st eclipse from Nashville, including sunspot group 2671 at center and sunspot 2672, just clipped by the moon. (Photo by John Giroux)

* It is a busy month for amateur astronomy, with Jupiter getting very close to being un-observable until December (so catch those photons now), Cassini about to take a serious plunge into Saturn, and Mercury, Venus, and Mars doing a wonderful dance in the pre-sunrise skies all month. Try to catch the days shown below (and see the article for more details)!

Caption: The prominent planetary groupings in the morning sky this month. (Image made with Stellarium)

* The constellation of the month is Draco – and with just one more circumpolar constellation to go, we’re two months away from explaining just what that means!

“Upstate NY Stargazing In May” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the Upstate NY Stargazing series, “Upstate NY Stargazing in May: A Meteor Shower and Preparations for the Solar Eclipse,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

Direct Links: newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com

* With only four articles to go before the great total solar eclipse on August 21st of this year, we’ve shifted gears in the article opener from great nighttime observing to great daytime observing. You’ll be seeing more and more from all kinds of news sources as the data approaches, and CNYO is figuring out what we plan to do for the event (besides a few scheduled eclipses lectures in the CNY area in the weeks before).

For the record, amateur astronomers reserved their rooms years and years ago in all the best places – if you’ve not figured out your flight plans around the 21st already, there is a seriously good chance that you’ll be stick driving to see the best view of totality.

Caption: The transit of Venus across the Sun on June 5/6, 2012. By NASA/SDO, AIA.

* We continue our look north with Cassiopeia, the third of six constellations that are always visible in the nighttime sky from our latitude (readers then can guess where the next three articles are headed).

* This month, we await the Eta Aquariid (or Eta Aquarid, or eta Aquarid… Halley’s Comet doesn’t care what you call it) Meteor Shower, which peaks on the early mornings of May 5/6. In doing the homework for the article, I found it interesting to note that we’re not entirely sure that this meteor shower originates from particles attributable to Halley’s Comet, the object we most associate with this shower. It is possible that Halley’s Comet is indirectly responsible for the particles by being directly responsible for the redirection of the debris from a different object in to the current Eta Aquariid path.

Caption: The Eta Aquariid radiant, complete with Venus, Saturn, the newly returned Summer Triangle, and one perfectly-placed 5 a.m. ISS flyover on the morning of May 6. Image made with Stellarium. Click for a larger view.