The Night Sky
by Garth Jones

Updated: May 25, 2013

June's Night Sky:

To begin this month's discussion, I'll include a condensed version of the excellent article submitted by the executive of the local Astronomy Club, "Dance of the planets heralds summer line-ups", published in the May 30 edition of The Local:

"The sixth month by its very name has a planetary association. The Romans of antiquity, subscribing to Greek mythology, named their supreme god Jupiter, with the queen of the gods called Juno - from whence comes the month's name.

This June, however, sees Jupiter disappear behind the Sun with the planet reaching solar conjunction on June 19 at which time Jupiter will be at the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. The planet Mars went into solar conjunction in April and will remain behind the Sun throughout June.

Of the innermost planets, that leaves Mercury, Venus and Saturn, all of which are visible at some time this month.

Mercury, the planet with the closest orbit to the Sun, can only be viewed either just before sunrise or just after sunset. Mercury will be at its highest angle (furthest east) above the western horizon on June 12, where it will sit approximately 24 degrees high in the evening sky, and set about 90 minutes after the Sun. On June 20 Mercury and its neighbouring planet Venus will be about 2 degrees apart in the west at sunset, as Mercury starts back toward the Sun from our perspective.

This month's full moon falls on June 23 and because it eoincides very closely with perigee - the Moon's closest approach to Earth - it will actually be the largest and brightest full moon of the year.

For anyone interested in astronomy, the local chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society will be meeting Friday, June 14 at 7:30 pm at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre in Sechelt. Because of the long summer day, if the sky is clear, a couple of telescopes will be set up outside the Art Centre to view the Sun. As well, those interested in stargazing should feel free to drop by the 'astro-cafe' at Pier 17, Davis Bay, on Friday, June 21 - the first evening of summer - where local club members will meet for coffee and chat at 8:30pm, and set up telescopes for viewing after sunset, weather permitting. The Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club website is:
www.Coast "

June's Events:

8 June: New Moon at 8:57 am
10 June: Loose grouping of Venus, Mercury and the crescent Moon low in W-NW in early evening.
16 June: Father's Day
18 June: Moon between Saturn and Spica in S-SW

19 June: Mercury 1.9º to lower left of Venus, low over the northwestern horizon very soon after sunset.

20 June: Summer begins: The summer solstice occurs on the evening of Thursday, June 20, at 10:04 pm
20-22 June: Mercury just 2º below Venus, just above the northwestern horizon 20 minutes after sunset.

23 June: This month's full Moon (called the Strawberry/Honey Moon) occurs at 4:32 am
Also, as the Moon is at perigee, expect
large tides for several days around this date!


Canada's New Radio Telescope:

Construction of Canada’s largest radio telescope – the first research telescope to be built in this country in more than 30 years – is now under way in Penticton, B.C.

The new telescope, with a footprint larger than six NHL hockey rinks, will listen for cosmic sound waves and help scientists understand why the universe has expanded rapidly – and learn about the mysterious 'dark energy' that is supposedly driving the expansion.
For more information, see:
Radio Telescope

Unmanned Space Activities:

NASA's Mars mission (the Mars Science Laboratory, or more conveniently named "Curiosity") is designed as a follow-up to its previous Rover explorations of Mars, in order to provide further information on whether life could ever have existed or even currently be present on that hostile planet. On November 26, the wheeled-vehicle, at 900 kg, the size of a mini-Cooper automobile, blasted off from Cape Canaveral. It contains, among its ten specialized instruments, a large instrumented robot arm, a weather station, a laser that can vaporize rocks at 7 metres, and a percussive drill. At the end of the robotic arm is fitted a Canadian contribution, an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) designed to analyse samples to help ascertain the potential habitability of Mars. A major difference between this rover and NASA's past versions is that the power for its instruments will be supplied by 4.7 kg of plutonium rather than solar panels. The radioactive decay of the plutonium will generate enough heat to produce the required electrical needs for the vehicle for its time on the red planet (the minimum time expected is 14 years). The benefit of such a power source is that it will enable the vehicle to operate continuously while on Mars, and not have to pause during Martian night or winter. The lift-off of this vehicle occurred without problem and after an eight month journey, it landed successfully on Tuesday, August 5, in the large (150 km diameter) Gale crater on Mars, a crater which is thought to be about three and a half billion years old with a three-mile-high mountain of layered sedimentary rock at its bottom — an enticing area of exploration for scientists. It will spend a minimum of two years roaming around the Crater which was chosen as the landing site because it is rich in minerals and scientists feel that if there is any place on Mars that might have been ripe for life, it would be there.

For an ongoing description of Curiosity’s activities, click on Nasa's web site.

At the time Curiosity landed on Mars, the distance between Mars and the Earth was about 1.8 AU (almost twice the distance between the Earth and the Sun), so signals between Mars and the Earth took almost 15 minutes to traverse the distance.

Since then, the distance between Mars and Earth has been increasing, and in March of this year, the two planets, Mars and the Earth, will be diametrically positioned about the Sun. At that time, their separation will be over 2.4 AU, meaning that signals will take about twenty minutes to reach Earth from Curiosity.

Mars can now be found (January 2013) very low over the west-southwestern horizon just after sunset.

The International Space Station:
For the five months ending on Monday, May 13, 2013
, the Space Station was for the first time commanded by a Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, who not only carried out his technical duties in a fully professional manner, but entertained and enlightened those of us on Earth with his awe-inspiring descriptions of the views of our planet from his orbiting platform, together with his musical interludes of song and guitar.

The International Space Station is now visible from our area several times throughout the day, even in the evening, though still primarily in the mornings before sunrise.
Good viewing times are listed in the following table:

1 June: 4:10 am

2 June: 1:44 am

2 June: 3:21 am

3 June: 0:55 am

3 June: 2:32 am

3 June: 4:08 am

3 June: 10:30 pm

4 June: 0:06 am

4 June: 1:43 am

4 June: 3:19 am

4 June: 11:17 pm

5 June: 0:54 am

5 June: 2:31 am

5 June: 4:07 am

5 June: 10:28 pm

6 June: 0:04 am

6 June: 1:42 am

6 June: 3:18 am

6 June: 11:16 pm

7 June: 0:53 am

7 June: 2:29 am

7 June: 4:07 am

7 June: 10:27 pm

8 June: 0:04 am

8 June: 1:40 am

8 June: 3:17 am

8 June: 11:14 pm

9 June: 0:51 am

9 June: 10:25 pm

10 June: 0:02 am


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