BACKYARD STARGAZER: The Moon in June (and other sights)

By Francis Parnell

At dawn on the 2nd of June, the last-quarter Moon, Jupiter and Saturn form a shallow arc. In the west-northwest at dusk on the 13th, a thin crescent Moon is in Cancer, only 3 degrees above red Mars. With binoculars you should be able to observe M44, the Beehive open star cluster and the Moon in the same field of view. The Moon averages 238,855 miles from Earth; M44 is 590 light-years away — 3,480,000,000,000,000 miles — or 3 quadrillion, 480 trillion miles away! M44 is a close neighbor on the cosmic-distance scale. On the 20th, the Sun is at the Solstice at 11:32 p.m. and summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere. At dusk on the 21st, look low in the west-northwest to spot dazzling Venus 5 degrees lower left of Pollux, one of the Gemini twins. An even more enjoyable line-up takes place on the 24th and 25th when Venus, Pollux and Castor, the other Gemini twin, form a 12 degree line parallel to the west-northwest horizon. A closed fist held at arm’s length equals approximately 10 degrees. Looking south-southeast after sunset on the 22nd, the Moon, two days from full, is in Scorpius, the Scorpion, about 4 degrees from red Antares, the heart of Scorpius. Just before dawn on the 27th, spot the waning gibbous Moon in the southern sky with Saturn about 5 degrees above it. Bright Jupiter is left of the pair. Before dawn on the 28th, the Moon is about halfway between the two gas giants and the trio forms an eye-catching triangle before sunrise. Enjoy summer and “Keep looking up!”

Author: Stephan Drew

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