What's Up in the Night Sky?

June 2023 - Vol. 27, No. 6

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

Spica (Virgo) glows in the SW while Regulus (Leo) vanishes over the W horizon before midnight. The "big dipper" (Ursa Major's asterism) now stands on its "handle" in the N. Antares (Scorpius) is low on the S horizon. The Eastern sky is dominated by the "summer triangle" asterism: Deneb (Cygnus), Vega (Lyra) and Altair (Aquila). An interesting star tour begins at the last star of the big dipper's handle, Alkaid. Following the curve of the handle, "arc to Arcturus". Now, following the same curve, "spike to Spica" and "continue to Corvus", its distinctive four star, kite-shaped, asterism.

MERCURY moves closer to the Sun is still favoring the southern hemisphere in the morning sky, and will reach superior conjunction on the first of July. VENUS is still prominent in the evening sky, appears to move toward Mars, reaching greatest elongation on May 4. MARS moves from Cancer into Leo on the 20th, fading to 1.7 magnitude by month's end. Mars and Venus never get close enough to arrive at conjunction. JUPITER becomes higher in the morning sky this month, rising around 1am by month's end. SATURN in Aquarius, rises around 10:30 pm by month's end. URANUS rises in the morning sky, gaining height as the month progresses. NEPTUNE rises around midnight in Pisces.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times or check with the U.S. Naval observatory. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

02 Mars 0.1 deg. S. of Beehive (M44).
03 This month's full moon is often called the "Strawberry Moon".
Alpha Scorpii, Antares, 1.5 deg. S. of Moon.
04 Venus at greatest elongation E. (45 deg.)
Mercury 3.0 deg. of Uranus.
06 Moon at perigee.
09 Saturn 3.0 deg. N. of Moon.
11 Neptune 2.0 deg. N. of Moon
13 Venus 0.6 deg. N. of Beehive cluster (M-44)
14 Jupiter 1.5 deg. S. of Moon
15 Uranus 2.0 deg. S. of Moon
16 Moon 1.8 deg. S. of the Pleiades (M-45).
Mercury 4.0 deg. S. of Moon.
18 Saturn stationary.
20 Alpha Geminorum, Pollux, 1.7 deg. N. of Moon.
21 Solstice, the Sun above Tropic of Cancer.
22 Moon at apogee.
Venus 4.0 deg. S. of Moon.
Mars 4.0 deg. S. of Moon.
27 Mercury at perihelion.

Lunar Almanac for June 2023

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: Venus adorns the Northern Sky

If you live in the northern hemisphere, no doubt you have noted the prominence of the bright planet Venus in the evening sky. Venus is the brightest natural object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. This is because Venus is the closest planet in the solar system to Earth. Soon Venus will be crossing in front of the Sun (August 13, 2023) when it reaches the closest point to Earth. This crossing is called inferior conjunction and is faithfully reported in the monthly What's Up? almanac. At that time the sunlit side of our sister planet is facing away and Venus will not be seen.

During the current cycle of Venus, northern observers will find the planet among the stars on the northern side of the ecliptic. In May it shines in Taurus, crossing over into Gemini early in the month. On May 9, Venus is at greatest heliocentric lat. N. so that northern observers see it high over the horizon, setting after midnight. After this, our sister planet seems to stray even further away from the Sun. On June 4, Venus moves into the constellation of Cancer, joining the red planet Mars.

Venus on May 8, 2023
Venus on May 8, 2023

Venus reaches the maximum elongation East on June 4 when it is 45 deg. away from the Sun. On June 12, Venus will pass 0.6 deg. north of the open star cluster known as the "Beehive" or "M-44". It closes the distance between it and Mars until the beginning of July, when it stops and snaps like a yo-yo, returning to the Sun. Now it becomes more difficult for observers in the north and those in the southern hemisphere are able to see Venus rising higher in their sky. Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy for this apparition on July 7, shining at -4.7 magnitude.

On July 20, a nice grouping of three planets, Venus, Mars and Mercury will not be visible to those in the north as the evening twilight will be sadly too long. This is also the date of the first Venus standstill, and our sister planet will begin to move rapidly toward the Sun.

Venus opens August, shining at -4.2 mag., lost in the Sun, increasingly hard to find as it is less than 20 degrees away and closing fast. Venus starts out in Leo but soon heads back to Cancer, reaching inferior conjunction on August 13, 2023. At the time of inferior conjunction, Venus is 7.7 deg. south of the Sun's center. (This heliocentric position is used by astronomers to reckon many angles for objects in the solar system.) Sometimes Venus passes much closer to the Sun, actually transiting across the solar disk but this is not to occur again for many years. Now the cycle is complete and a new apparition of Venus begins when the first sighting of Venus Morningstar occurs just before sunrise.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page.

This installment of "What's Up?" is ©2023 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.