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What's Up this week 22nd June - 30th June


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What's Up this week: 22nd - 30th June (taken from Astronomy magazine and adapted for the UK)

Saturday, June 22
Tonight likely will be your last good chance to see Mercury during its current evening apparition. The innermost planet lies 3° directly below Venus in the west-northwest after sunset. You should have no problem spying brilliant Venus a half-hour after sunset. Once you locate it, use binoculars to pick out Mercury, which glows about 100 times fainter than its neighbor.

Sunday, June 23
Full Moon arrives at 12:32pm. Coincidentally, our satellite reaches perigee, the closest point in its orbit around Earth, just 20 minutes earlier. It then lies 221,824 miles (356,991 kilometers) away from us, its closest approach of the year. That makes this the largest Full Moon (33.5' across) of 2013. From the Midlands, our satellite appears nearly Full between the backdrop of Sagittarius and Scorpio both Saturday and Sunday nights.

Monday, June 24
This might be your last opportunity to see asteroid 1 Ceres in the evening sky this year. The magnitude 8.8 object resides in the constellation Cancer, passing 1° due south of the 5th-magnitude star Chi (χ) Cancri tonight. This region stands only a few degrees above the northwestern horizon as evening twilight winds down. You’ll need a telescope to spot the solar system wanderer.

Tuesday, June 25
Venus crosses from Gemini the Twins into Cancer the Crab today. As darkness starts to fall, the planet forms a straight line with Gemini’s two brightest stars: Castor and Pollux. Glowing at magnitude –3.8, Venus stands out, though you’ll likely need binoculars to spy the two background stars. If you turn a telescope on the planet, you’ll see a disk that spans 11" and appears nearly full.

Wednesday, June 26
Saturn currently shines at magnitude 0.5 among the background stars of eastern Virgo, where it sits just 0.5° (the width of a Full Moon) south-southeast of the 4th-magnitude star Kappa (κ) Virginis. The planet reaches its maximum altitude in the south around 9 p.m. and doesn’t set until well after midnight. Although Saturn looks attractive enough with naked eyes, it doesn’t dazzle until you view it through a telescope. Even a small instrument reveals the distant world’s 18"-diameter disk and the spectacular rings, which span 41" and tilt 17° to our line of sight.

Thursday, June 27
For people who live near 40° north latitude, today marks the latest sunset of the year. Although Earth’s summer solstice and the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day occurred nearly a week ago (on the 21st), latest sunset happens several days after and earliest sunrise several days before. The specific dates depend on your latitude, however — latest sunset at 30° north takes place June 30. In general, latest sunset occurs closer to the solstice the farther north you live.

Friday, June 28
Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) should glow around 10th magnitude this week, so you’ll need a telescope to follow its trek back into the solar system’s depths. Fortunately, it remains on view all night for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. Tonight, it lies approximately midway between the 3rd-magnitude star Gamma (γ) Ursae Minoris and 4th-magnitude Thuban (Alpha [α] Draconis), the brightest star near the North Celestial Pole between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago when the ancient Egyptians built their largest pyramids.

Saturday, June 29
Mars returns to view in the morning sky during late June, but just barely. The Red Planet lies among the background stars of Taurus the Bull and appears just 5° high in the east-northeast 45 minutes before sunrise. Mars shines at magnitude 1.5 and should show up as a ruddy dot through binoculars. It won’t return to prominence, however, for several weeks.

Sunday, June 30
Last Quarter Moon arrives at 05:54 a.m.. It rises around 12:30 a.m. local daylight time and climbs higher in the southeast as dawn approaches. During this period, our half-lit satellite lies among the dim background stars of Pisces the Fish.

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