The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jim White
In the Sky 

Solstice event offers opportunity to view sun safely

 

June Constellations - Looking up, facing south.

Welcome to June, the month of the summer solstice. The sun will reach its northernmost point in the sky on June 21, when it will be directly above the Tropic of Cancer. On that date the sun will rise at about 5:16 a.m. and will not set until 9 p.m., a total of 15 hours and 44 minutes of daylight.

If you're interested in viewing the sun at the solstice, join the Friends of Goldendale Observatory at the Stonehenge replica, south of Goldendale, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 21. Safely filtered telescopes will allow you to see the solar disk as you've never seen it before, including sunspots and solar flares. The viewing is free, and you can learn more about our most important star!

June nights may be short, but there will be plenty to see when the sun sets. June will be the best month this year to view the magnificent rings of the planet Saturn. Saturn made its closest approach to earth on May 23, and is now growing farther away. However, it'll still be very close in June, and will be higher in the sky during evening hours. Look for Saturn low in the southeast after sunset; it'll be the brightest object in that area. On June 1, the nearly full moon will lie just to the right of Saturn.

You'll need a telescope to see Saturn's rings. Even a small telescope will do, although the image will be very small. It'll be best seen when skies darken, so plan on staying up late. If you have telescope, or a friend with a telescope, or have a chance to visit the Goldendale Observatory, this is a good time to see one of the solar system's true jewels. Or, join me at the Trout Lake School on Saturday, June 20, 9 p.m. On that night, we'll not only be able to see Saturn, but also Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent moon.

Jupiter and Venus will still be prominent in the western evening sky during June. Venus is brighter, farther to the west, and lower in the sky than Jupiter. If you watch them from night to night, you'll see that they are approaching each other, from our point of view. At the end of the month, on June 30, they will be very close to each other, a planetary conjunction. A sight not to miss!

Our moon will be full early in the day on June 2. New moon will be on June 16. On June 19 and 20, the moon will be near Venus and Jupiter in the western evening sky. Look for the moon just above the bright star Spica on June 25, and just to the right of Saturn on the June 28.

Spring and summer constellations are now prominent in the evening sky. At the beginning of the month, the twin stars Castor and Pollux, in the winter constellation Gemini, are still peeking above the western horizon. You'll find them just to the right of Venus after sunset. Leo the Lion, an easily identified spring constellation, is low in the southwest. High overhead you'll find the constellations Bootes, with its bright star Arcturus, the constellation Lyra, with bright star Vega, and the constellation Hercules lying between them. The middle of Hercules consists of four fairly bright stars, all of about the same brightness, in a rough rectangle called the "keystone." If you have a pair of binoculars, see if you can pick out the Hercules cluster, a globular cluster, in the constellation, on the west side of the keystone (on the right as you face south). Globular clusters are dense clusters of stars, a beautiful sight in a telescope. In binoculars, the cluster will appear as a fuzzy "star." The accompanying chart may help. Let me know if you locate it!

Still grumbling because you lost an hour's sleep in March, when we "sprung ahead" to daylight savings time? The good news is that you get a bit of that back on June 30! The bad news – you only get an extra second. On that date, we'll have a "leap second" added to official clocks. Why? Well, the earth's rotation is slowing, and it requires periodically adding some time, in order to keep our clocks in line with the Sun in the sky. Enjoy that extra second!

 

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