The Sky Above You – June 2021
By Duncan Lunan
The Moon will be New on June 10th, at its furthest from the Earth, and there will be an annular solar eclipse, with the rim of the Sun visible around the lunar disc, seen from northern Canada, the North Pole and eastern Siberia. Seen from Edinburgh, 41% of the Sun will be obscured in a partial solar eclipse, peaking at 11.16 a.m.. The Moon will be Full on June 24th, three days after the summer solstice, and this will be a ‘supermoon’, when the Moon is Full at its nearest to Earth.
The planet Mercury is not visible this month, at inferior conjunction on this side of the Sun on the 11th.
Venus sets at 11 p.m. (BST) in June, passing Castor and Pollux in Gemini on the 22nd, and passed by the new crescent Moon on the 12th.
Venus is also moving towards Mars, which is near Castor and Pollux early in the month and moves from Gemini into Cancer, passed by the Moon on the 13th. Between the 22nd and 24th , Mars will pass in front of the Open Cluster Praesepe in Cancer, low in the evening sky.
Jupiter in Aquarius rises at 0.30 a.m., with the waning Moon nearby on the 1st and 2nd, with Saturn to upper right of them, and the Moon is between them on the 28th, still closer to Jupiter the following night. On the 21st Jupiter reaches its ‘stationary point’, after which it will appear to move westward against the stars from night to night as it’s overtaken by the Earth. Io, the innermost of the four large Galilean moons, will transit the face of Jupiter on June 28th, preceded by its shadow, and both will be visible along with the Great Red Spot around 2.30 a.m..
Saturn in Capricornus rises at midnight (11 p.m. by the end of the month), and is also passed by the Moon on the 3rd and the 27th.
Uranus in Aries is not visible, after conjunction on the far side of the Sun on April 30th, but is passed by the Moon on the 7th.
Neptune rises between Aquarius and Pisces around 1.30 a.m., passed by the Moon on June 3rd and 30th. By the end of June, Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune are all appearing to move retrograde (westward) as the Earth overtakes them in its orbit, before our closest to them later in the year.
As usual, it will never be completely dark during June, as the Sun never gets far below the horizon. It’s a good time to see noctilucent (night-glowing) clouds in the north, lit by sunlight at high altitudes, first reported in the 19th century and still not fully explained.
.Duncan Lunan’s space travel stories, old and new, are available from Other Side Books as From the Moon to the Stars, relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, and The Other Side of the Interface, with a wider scope. Both have illustrations by Sydney Jordan, and are available through Amazon or through bookshops. For details and for his other books see his website, www.duncanlunan.com.
The Sky Above You
By Duncan Lunan
About this Column
I began writing this column in early 1983 at the suggestion of the late Chris Boyce. At that time the Post Office would allow 1000 free mailings to start a new business, just under the number of small press newspapers in the UK at the time. I printed a flyer with the help of John Braithwaite (of Braithwaite Telescopes) offering a three-part column for £5, with the sky this month, a series of articles for beginners, and a monthly news feature. The column ran from May 1983 to May 1993 in various newspapers and magazines, but never in more than five outlets at a time, although every one of those 1000-plus papers would have included an astrology column. Since then it’s appeared sporadically in a range of publications including The Southsider in Glasgow and the Dalyan Courier in Turkey, but most often, normally three times per year, in Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos from the first issue in March 2003 until the last in January 2018. It continues to appear monthly in Troon's Going Out and Orkney News. Enquries from other outlets welcomed!
The monthly maps for the column were drawn for me by Jim Barker, based on similar, uncredited ones in Dr. Leon Hausman’s “Astronomy Handbook” (Fawcett Publications, 1956). Jim had to redraw or elongate several of them because they were drawn for mid-US latitudes, about 40 degrees North, making them usable over most of the northern hemisphere. The biggest change needed was in November when only Dubhe, Merak and Megrez of the Big Dipper, as the US version called it, were visible at that latitude. In the UK, all the stars of the Plough are circumpolar, always above the horizon. We decided to keep an insert in the January map showing the position of M42, the Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion, and for that reason, to stick with the set time of 9 p.m., (10 p.m. BST in summer), although in Scotland the sky isn’t dark then during June and July.
To use the maps in theory you should hold them overhead, aligning the North edge to true north, marked by Polaris and indicated by Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers. It’s more practical to hold the map in front of you when looking south and then rotate it as you face east, south and west. Some readers are confused because east is on the left, opposite to terrestrial maps, but that’s because they’re the other way up. When you’re facing south and looking at the sky, east is on your left.
The star patterns are the same for each month of each year, and only the positions of the planets change. (“Astronomy Handbook” accidentally shows Saturn in Virgo during May, showing that the maps weren’t originally drawn for the Hausman book.) Consequently regular readers for a year will by then have built up a complete set of twelve.