June Skychart; Northern Hemisphere gazer's guide
Evening stars are especially good this June. Early in the evening, five bright objects stretch out in line upward from the horizon toward the left. The lowest and brightest is Venus, perhaps not quite as well placed as in May, but brighter. Next to its left and higher is Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. More distant to the left, high in the south, are Spica, Virgo's brightest star, and the planet Saturn (the higher of the two). Again to the left but lower (in the southeast) is the planet Jupiter, second only to Venus in brightness. The five objects will be in the same general arrangement and order throughout June, but it will be interesting to compare the distances between them through the month.
Though the brighter planets are all evening stars (Mercury and Mars are both morning objects, but not very good), the sky still looks pretty good after midnight.
June 1: The moon is at apogee today, the position in its orbit most distant from earth. It rises tonight at about midnight (2400 hours, Eastern standard time), as a waning gibbous moon, two days before last quarter, among the stars of Aquarius.
June 3: Mars is in conjunction with the sun. When the sun passes it today from right to left, Mars shifts from east of the sun to its west. Technically, it now becomes a morning star, but it will remain inconspicuous for the rest of the year, although it will be well above the horizon by dawn later on.
June 5: Crescent moon this morning is in Pisces, south and east of the vernal equinox.
June 8: Mercury is in the morning sky, to the right (west) of the rising sun. It is at its greatest westerly elongation today, its maximum distance to the sun's right, and its best position for viewing as a morning star.
June 9: The crescent moon may help you locate Mercury this morning. Rising about 1 1/4 hours before the sun, the moon passes Mercury (conjunction) about 5 o'clock EST. Look just below the lower ''horn'' of the crescent for the planet. The moon covers Mercury (an occultation) over the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent land areas.
June 11-12: New moon is at 11:37 EST tonight; thus the date falls on the 11th or 12th, depending on the time zone. This moon brings a total solar eclipse to the earth, the first eclipse of 1983. No part of it occurs in the Americas, but it promises to be striking in parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It will have of the longest periods of totality (when the sun is completely covered by the moon) in memory, over eight minutes on the Oceanic islands where the eclipse is best.
June 13: The moon is at perigee, nearest Earth.
June 13-14: Venus and the moon make a pretty sight in the twilight and early nighttime sky both evenings. The moon passes above Venus at about 6 a.m., moving from below and to the right of it on the evening of the 13th to above and left of it on the 14th.
June 15: The earliest sunrise of the year occurs today in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
June 16: Venus is at greatest easterly elongation. To the left of the sun, Venus is best for viewing as an evening star.
June 17: First-quarter moon is in Virgo. When you see it early tonight, it will be midway between Regulus (below and to its right) and Spica (in Virgo, to its left and below), and virtually above the autumnal equinox.
June 19: At sundown tonight the waxing gibbous moon is well above the horizon in the east-southeast, near two bright objects. The one below to its right is Spica, Virgo's brightest star. The one below to its left and much closer is the planet Saturn. The moon passes Saturn (conjunction) at about 10 o'clock EST.
June 21: The sun arrives at the summer solstice at 6:09 p.m. EST, and summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere. This is also the day on which the sun spends most time above the horizon in northern latitudes. The moon tonight is between Jupiter (below and to its left) and Saturn and Spica (to its right and more distant).
June 22: Another occultation of Jupiter (in the series that began in March) occurs today, when the moon covers the planet in the sky over Arctic regions. In our sky, moon and planet appear very close when they first become visible in the east at dusk, and separate slowly during the night. Conjunction, when the moon is closest above Jupiter, is at 4 p.m.
June 24-25: The nearly full moon rises in Sagittarius tonight, becomes full about 3:32 a.m. EST on the 25th. A partial lunar eclipse begins shortly after 2 a.m. EST and ends about 4:30 a.m. At mid-eclipse, when the moon has entered Earth's shadow the deepest, only a little more than a third of the moon's diameter is darkened by the shadow.
June 28: The waning gibbous moon is at apogee today, rising at about 10 p.m. EST, near the easterly edge of Capricornus. Moonlight will probably obscure most stars in this not-too-conspicuous constellation, although you might be able to trace out the ''bikini''-shaped triangle to the moon's right.