Backyard Stargazer: Searching the three summer constellations

Francis Parnell, the Backyard Stargazer of Darlington

By Francis Parnell

Welcome to June and the official start of summer. The summertime constellations of Libra, Scorpius and Sagittarius are rising earlier each night.
Find a spot away from light-polluted skies that will let you see the band of light that’s the glow of billions of stars, look towards Sagittarius, and you’ll be looking at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, about 27,000 light-years away.
At sunset on the 4th, looking west along the twilight line, you’d spot tiny Mercury at greatest elongation, 24 degrees east of the Sun.
After sunset on the 4th, you’d find the almost full Moon about 7 degrees above the bright red supergiant star Antares, the heart of Scorpius, the Scorpion.
The Sun is 865,374 miles in diameter. Antares is 764,000,000 miles in diameter, 882 times the diameter of the Sun!
Rising in the southeast around 11 p.m. on the 7th and 8th, and reaching their highest point in our sky at 4 a.m., Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon were well placed for observing, with 5 degrees separating Jupiter and Saturn. On the 7th, the Moon was 6 degrees lower right of Jupiter.
On the 8th, the Moon had moved to about 5 degrees lower left of Saturn.
At 5:44 p.m. on the 20th, the Sun is at the Solstice, its highest point in our sky, and summer officially begins in the northern hemisphere.
On the 22nd, the thin waxing crescent Moon is below and to the left of Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars in Gemini, the Twins.
FAST FACT: Even though the Sun speeds along at 514,489 mph, it still takes about 230 million years to complete one orbit of the Milky Way!
Stay safe, healthy, and “Keep looking up!”

Author: Rachel Howell

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