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What's Up this week 1st June - 9th June


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Taken from Astronomy Magazine and tweaked for the UK.


Saturday, June 1
The spectacular evening appearance of three bright planets that dominated last week winds down in early June. Look about 30 minutes after sunset tonight, and you’ll see Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter (from top to bottom) forming a 9°-long straight line. Although Mercury and Venus climb a bit higher by the end of this week, Jupiter sinks into the twilight glow and will be lost from view.

Sunday, June 2
Although Saturn reached opposition at the end of April, it still looks spectacular. It lies among the background stars of eastern Virgo and reaches its peak in the south around 10:30 p.m. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.3, noticeably brighter than Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, which lies 13° west of the planet. When viewed through a telescope, Saturn’s globe measures 18" across while the rings span 42" and tilt 17° to our line of sight.

Monday, June 3
Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) continues to fade this week, and you’ll need a telescope to follow its trek back into the solar system’s depths. Fortunately, its position near Polaris — it currently stands some 8° from the 2nd-magnitude Pole Star — means that it remains on view all night for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. Tonight, it lies a bit more than 1° west of the 4th-magnitude star Epsilon (ε) Ursae Minoris.

Tuesday, June 4
As Mercury and Venus climb slowly away from the Sun this week, they keep the same alignment: Innermost Mercury appears 5° to its partner’s upper left. At magnitude –3.8, Venus shines some 25 times brighter than its neighbor. If you point a telescope at each planet, you’ll find Mercury shows a 7"-diameter disk that appears slightly gibbous. (It will look half-lit on the evening of June 6.) Venus’ disk spans 10" and appears nearly full all week.

Wednesday, June 5
Look high in the northwest after darkness falls this week, and you’ll be greeted by the familiar sight of the Big Dipper. The Dipper is the most conspicuous asterism — a recognizable pattern of stars that doesn’t form a complete constellation shape — in the entire sky. It forms the body and tail of Ursa Major the Great Bear. Use the Pointers, the two stars at the end of the Dipper’s bowl, to find Polaris, which lies due north for everyone north of the equator. Polaris marks the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. On June evenings, the relatively faint stars of this dipper arc directly above Polaris.

Thursday, June 6
Tonight provides a nice opportunity to find 1 Ceres. The solar system’s largest asteroid lies in the constellation Gemini, less than 1° due south of 1st-magnitude Pollux. This region stands a bit more than 10° high in the west-northwest at the end of evening twilight. You’ll need a telescope to spot 9th-magnitude Ceres. To confirm your sighting, sketch the field and return to it a night or two later. The object that moved is the asteroid.

Friday, June 7
Neptune’s eastward motion against the background stars comes to a halt at 7pm. This so-called stationary point marks the beginning of the best period to observe an outer planet. Neptune rises around 1 a.m. and appears 20° high in the southeast as morning twilight commences. The 8th-magnitude planet lies in central Aquarius, just 0.6° northwest of 5th-magnitude Sigma (σ) Aquarii, and doesn’t move noticeably all week. You’ll need binoculars to spy Neptune and a telescope to see its blue-gray disk, which spans 2.3", you'll also need a good clear dark sky.

Saturday, June 8
New Moon occurs at 4.56pm. At its new phase, the Moon crosses the sky with the Sun and so remains hidden in our star’s glare.

Sunday, June 9
The Moon reaches apogee, the farthest point in its orbit around Earth, at 10:40 p.m. It then lies 252,579 miles (406,486 kilometers) from Earth’s center.



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