Over the past couple of days and extending into the next couple, three planets, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury have gathered into a tight group low in the West-northwestern sky at dusk.
Tonight you can look about a half hour after sunset and very low you may see bright Venus first. Just below it and to the left is Jupiter, and a bit farther above is Mercury.
On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, they will be stretched out in a line, from lower right to upper left, with Venus in the middle.
The best time to catch these planets is from about 20 to 40 minutes after local sunset. Too early and the sky will be too bright, too late and the planets will be too low or will already have gone down. Remember that this requires that you be able to see down to a few degrees above the Northwestern horizon.
For day-to-day listings, please check out the North American Skies Twitter feed: NASkies You do not have to have a Twitter account, nor do you have to "follow" the account to view it.
This year’s “Super Moons”
You may have heard talk of “supermoons” this year. Basically, this recently coined term refers to any Full Moon that occurs near the time of perigee (the Moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit. This can cause the Full Moon to appear slightly larger than usual, and in some cases can very slightly increase the size of high tides (this likely would go unnoticed except perhaps in combination with a storm surge on the coasts).
We just had the first supermoon of the year, but the largest will be on Sunday, June 23 (7:32 a.m. EDT) when the Full Moon occurs less than an hour after the perigee (221,824 miles or 356,991 kilometers). It will look a bit larger than an “ordinary” Full Moon, but keep in mind that this may not be easy to notice without and “ordinary” Full Moon with which to compare. Look for the Moon rising slightly before sunset on Saturday night and slightly after sunset on Sunday night.
Bruce McClure of EarthSky.org wrote a good piece on supermoons (with links) here: What is a supermoon?
As noted, this Full Moon of June occurs on Sunday, June 23 at 7:32 a.m. EDT. This Full Moon was called "The “Strawberry Moon” by the Algonquin and Ojibway; the “Buffalo Pawing Earth Moon” by the Osage; and “The Moon of the Salmon” by the Tlingit Peoples.
The Full Moon of July occurs at 2:16 p.m. on Monday, July 22. It was called the "Buck Moon" and the “Thunder Moon” by the Algonquin; the “Raspberry Moon” by the Ojibway; and the “Moon when the Cherries are Ripe” by the Lakota Sioux.
(Moon names courtesy of Kim Long, author of The Moon Book and the Moon Almanac 2013). See The Moon Almanac
The June Solstice, marking the beginning of Summer for the Northern Hemisphere, occurs at precisely 1:04 a.m. EDT on Friday, June 21. The Sun reaches its farthest point North in the sky at that moment (of course it is not visible in North American skies at that moment!
Moon & Spica
On the evening of June 17, the Moon will be approaching the star Spica in Virgo from the West, with Saturn a bit farther East (to the left). On the following evening, the Moon will have passed Spica and will be more or less between Spica and brighter Saturn. During the day on the 18th, the Moon passes so close to Spica that it actually eclipses it (an “occultation”) Although this will not be visible from North America. (Visible from parts of South America and Africa.)
Astronomical societies and clubs across North America regularly hold "star parties" during which the public is invited to look at the Moon, planets and stars through telescopes. These are typically free and often offered on a monthly basis. I cannot list them all, but for Denver area observers, the next two opportunities are at the Community College of Aurora Observatory on the evening of Friday, June 14, and at Chamberlin Observatory on Saturdays June 15 and July 13.
For those of you located in other parts of North America, check out the NASA Night Sky Network page for information in your area.
Here are some links for you.
North American Skies Twitter page:
North American Skies Skywatcher
Satellites, ISS passage predictions and more
And on Facebook, Northern Skies:
Good luck and clear skies
Remember, "It’s all over your head!"
Larry Sessions, Denver
Feel free to email your questions.
If you are not already a member of this North American Skies email alert list, you can sign up here:
North American Skies email alert
and you should consider joining Jeff Bennett’s email list:
Jeff Bennett’s News Articles and Newsletters
(Jeff is an author and PhD astronomer in Boulder, Colorado)
In the Southern Hemisphere? check out Ian Maclean’s
Night Sky Secrets page
For a daily fix of science news and views, visit:
And for great music to observe or work by, try King FM (Seattle), KDFC (San Francisco) or KVOD (Denver):