By Larry Mahon
>View Saturn as twilight fades
Agate Ridge Observatory
The season of spring is over when the sun reaches its June solstice on the 21st at 10:16 a.m. PDT and summer season officially begins in our hemisphere.
I am sure that all of us are ready for the longer warmer days that are sure to follow. The longer hours of daylight of course lead to shorter hours of darkness. On June 21, sunrise occurs at 5:17 a.m., and sunset at 8:52 p.m.
This means that there are 15 hours and 35 minutes that the sun is visible above the horizon. The morning and evening twilight will be nearly two hours each in length, which leaves about four and one-half hours of total darkness to enjoy viewing the night sky.
Of course there many objects to be seen and enjoyed before it is completely dark.
Saturn is the evening planet this month, rising at 3:09 p.m. on June 1, and as evening twilight fades, it will be nearly on the meridian and almost 45 degrees above the southern horizon.
Saturn's retrograde motion ends on June 14, when it very slowly starts moving eastward in relation to the background stars. This very slow motion keeps it near the third magnitude star Gamma Virginis most of the month, with the closest approach, of only one-quarter of a degree, on June 14.
The ring system reaches its minimum tilt of 7.3 degrees early this month and then continues to open up till September.
Jupiter rises at 3:27 a.m., which is nearly two hours ahead of the sun on June 2. Viewing early in the month will be as the sky brightens and be very low in the east.
Waiting until the middle of the month will allow you to see it in a much darker sky. By the end of the month, Jupiter will rise at 1:50 a.m. and be 37 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon by sunrise.
Mars will then 32 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter and just above Taurus and to the lower left of the Pleides.
With Jupiter and Saturn being the only planets easily visible this month, this is a wonderful time to write a few lines about the Star Clusters, Nebula, our Milky Way and other Galaxies.
Covering such a subject without charts to show locations, photos and discussions to describe types of objects, becomes an impossible task. I would like to make a few suggestions however.
First, come to Astronomy Day at the second Saturday Market of this summer on June 11. There will be displays that can be discussed and touched.
Second, make use of the library. If you can't find what you are looking for, ask for help.
Third, when online, go to skyandtelescope.com; there are free sky charts, observing hints, sky-lab predictions and news items as well.
Fourth, come to an Astronomy Club Star Party. There will be several this summer in different locations. Watch the Pioneer for notices and look for posters around town.
Lastly, buy a monthly magazine. This is the only suggestion that costs money. There are two excellent ones: "Astronomy," and "Sky and Telescope." You can find them at Barnes & Noble or subscribe online.
For someone just learning about the heavens, I would recommend a less expensive once a year purchase of "Skywatch," which is published by "Sky and Telescope." It has interesting articles, sky charts and two pages of information for each month of the year. The 2011 issue is still available from their online store.