Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of June 2019
Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. The Cat's Eye Nebula was one of the first planetary nebulae to be discovered, yet it remains one of the most complex in structure. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents the final, brief phase in the life of a Sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star is believed to have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this sharp Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Gazing into the Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our Sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution in about 5 billion years. (Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI) (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and the Hubble Heritage Team - STScI/AURA).
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of June 2019
Welcome to the night sky report for June 2019 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Though the nights are shorter in June, they are filled with fine sights. Look for the Hercules constellation, which will lead you to a globular star cluster with hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars. You can also spot Draco the dragon, which will point you to the Cat’s Eye Nebula. Jupiter is at its biggest and brightest this month, rising at dusk and remaining visible all night. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The balmy nights of June are short, but filled with fine sights for the backyard stargazer. Look for the Big Dipper riding high in the northwest. It's handle points toward Arcturus - the fourth brightest star in the night sky.
Arcturus is part of the constellation Bootes the herdsman. Bootes also contains a double star called Epsilon Bootes or Izar. The striking pair of stars appears yellow orange and bluish in a modest telescope.
To the left of Bootes sits a semicircle of stars known as Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. Next to Corona Borealis, we find the dim constellation of a bright hero, Hercules the strong man
of Greek mythology.
Near the center of the constellation Hercules is a trapezoid known as the Keystone. The Keystone is essential to finding the great star cluster in Hercules, a globular star cluster containing hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars.
Globular star clusters contain among the oldest stars in our galaxy. All of the stars within a globular cluster formed around the same time. With NASA's Hubble Space Telescope we can observe these old stars individually and compare how stars of different masses change as they age.
Just outside the Keystone sits another globular cluster M92. M92 is more distant than the Hercules Cluster and looks smaller and fainter through a telescope. An image from Hubble shows many bright, old red giant stars in its crowded core.
North of Hercules, breathing fire on his feet, is Draco the dragon. Draco's long body curls around the Little Dipper. Located along the dragon’s coils is NGC 6543, the Cat's Eye nebula, a cloud of expanding glowing gas from a dying star. NASA's Hubble and Chandra Space Telescope's bring the Cat's Eye into detailed view.
During June, Jupiter is up all night, Mercury and Mars decide to get close, and the Moon reveals its tilted orbit.
Jupiter is at its biggest and brightest this month, rising at dusk and remaining visible all night. The solar system's largest planet is a brilliant jewel to the naked eye, but looks fantastic through binoculars or a small telescope, which will allow you to spot the four largest moons, and maybe even glimpse a hint of the banded clouds that encircle the planet.
Jupiter reaches opposition on June 10th. The term “opposition” refers to the yearly occurrence when Jupiter, Earth, and the Sun are arranged in a straight line, with Earth in the middle. It's the best time of the year to see Jupiter, as the planet is visible in the sky all night and it's around the time when Jupiter is closest to Earth. Although opposition takes place on a specific date, the entire month or so around opposition is an equally good time to observe the planet and its four largest moons.
In mid-June, Mars and Mercury appear ultra-close together immediately after sunset for two days, on June 17th and 18th. You'll need a pretty clear view of the western horizon to catch them, as the pair will be only a few degrees above the horizon (and the farther north you are, the lower they'll be). But it should be spectacular if you can manage it.
In the middle of the month, from about June 14th to the 19th, look for the Moon to form a beautiful lineup in the sky with Jupiter and Saturn that changes each night as the Moon moves in its orbit around Earth.
While you're out marveling this trio, there's a really neat astronomy observation you can attempt yourself, just by paying attention to the Moon's movement from night to night.
If you can imagine a line passing through Jupiter and Saturn, this more or less represents the plane in which Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun. Think of it as a big disk, and you're looking out to the edge of the disk from within it.
Look closely and you can see that the Moon doesn't move along the same line. From night to night it moves along its own path, crossing the Jupiter-Saturn line as it moves between the two giant planets on June 18th. This separate path shows that the Moon's orbit is slightly tilted with respect to Earth's orbit around the Sun.
This tilt in the Moon’s orbit is why an eclipse is kind of a special event. Eclipses occur when the Moon passes into Earth's shadow, or when Earth passes into the Moon’s shadow.
With the Moon orbiting Earth every month, you might think there would be a lunar and solar eclipse every month as well, with the Sun, Moon, and Earth forming a nice, straight line. But instead, its tilted orbit means the Moon misses this lineup most months, crossing Earth's orbital plane at the right time for a lineup with the Sun only a couple of times a year.
Lunar eclipses don't occur monthly because of the Moon's tilted orbit, but they do tend to happen somewhere on Earth about every 18 months. Solar eclipses have additional factors affecting their seeming rarity, though. While the full Moon in a lunar eclipse can be seen from most anywhere on Earth's night side, solar eclipses tend to have more limited visibility. This is because the Moon's shadow only sweeps across a fairly small area of Earth's surface during a solar eclipse, meaning the region of totality (where the Sun appears completely obscured by the Moon) is not very large. Additionally, most of Earth is covered by water, so lots of solar eclipses are only visible at sea. In addition, many solar eclipses are not total. Rather, many are partial (where the Moon just grazes the Sun) or annular (where the Moon appears smaller than the Sun and leaves a ring of Sun visible).
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."
NGC 5248 Galaxy C45, Herschel 400 H34-1
NGC 5466 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H9-6
NGC 5557 Galaxy Herschel 400 H99-1
NGC 5676 Galaxy Herschel 400 H189-1
- NGC 5660 Galaxy Paired with H189-1
NGC 5689 Galaxy Herschel 400 H188-1
Constellation: Corona Borealis
NGC 3147 Galaxy Herschel 400 H79-1
NGC 4125 Galaxy P26
- NGC 4121 Galaxy Paired with P26
NGC 4236 Galaxy C3
NGC 5866 Galaxy M102, Herschel 400 H215-1
NGC 5906 Galaxy Herschel 400 H759-2
NGC 5982 Galaxy Herschel 400 H764-2
NGC 6503 Galaxy P80
NGC 6543 Planetary Nebula C6, Herschel 400 H37-4 Cat’s Eye Nebula
NGC 6832 Open Cluster P27
IC 4593 Planetary Nebula P158 White Eyed Pea Nebula
NGC 6205 Globular Cluster M13 Great Hercules Cluster
NGC 6207 Galaxy Herschel 400 H701-2
NGC 6210 Planetary Nebula P34
NGC 6229 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H50-4
NGC 6341 Globular Cluster M92
NGC 5897 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H19-6
IC 4634 Planetary Nebula P168
IC 4665 Open Cluster P36
NGC 6171 Globular Cluster M107, Herschel 400 H40-6
NGC 6218 Globular Cluster M12
NGC 6235 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H584-2
NGC 6254 Globular Cluster M10
NGC 6266 Globular Cluster M62
NGC 6273 Globular Cluster M19
NGC 6284 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H11-6
NGC 6287 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H195-2
NGC 6293 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H12-6
NGC 6304 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H147-1
NGC 6309 Planetary Nebula P236 Box Nebula
NGC 6316 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H45-1
NGC 6325 Globular Cluster P169
NGC 6333 Globular Cluster M9
NGC 6342 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H149-1
NGC 6355 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H46-1
NGC 6356 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H48-1
NGC 6366 Globular Cluster P37
NGC 6369 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H11-4 Little Ghost Nebula
NGC 6401 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H44-1
NGC 6402 Globular Cluster M14
NGC 6426 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H587-2
NGC 6517 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H199-2
NGC 6572 Planetary Nebula P38 Emerald Nebula
NGC 6633 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H72-8
NGC 6093 Globular Cluster M80
NGC 6121 Globular Cluster M4
NGC 6124 Open Cluster C75
NGC 6139 Globular Cluster P53
NGC 6144 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H10-6
NGC 6153 Planetary Nebula P189
NGC 6178 Open Cluster P111
NGC 6192 Open Cluster P190
NGC 6216 Open Cluster P210
NGC 6231 Open Cluster C76
NGC 6242 Open Cluster P54
NGC 6249 Open Cluster P191
NGC 6259 Open Cluster P112
NGC 6268 Open Cluster P192
NGC 6281 Open Cluster P55
NGC 6302 Planetary Nebula C69 Butterfly Nebula
NGC 6318 Open Cluster P249
NGC 6322 Open Cluster P56
NGC 6374 Open Cluster P193
NGC 6383 Open Cluster P57
NGC 6388 Globular Cluster P58
NGC 6396 Open Cluster P194
NGC 6400 Open Cluster P195
NGC 6404 Open Cluster P250
NGC 6405 Open Cluster M6 Butterfly Cluster
NGC 6416 Open Cluster P59
NGC 6425 Open Cluster P113
NGC 6441 Globular Cluster P114
NGC 6451 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H13-6
NGC 6453 Globular Cluster P115
NGC 6475 Open Cluster M7 Ptolemy Cluster
NGC 6496 Globular Cluster P60
Constellation: Serpens Caput
NGC 5904 Globular Cluster M5
NGC 6118 Galaxy Herschel 400 H402-2 Blinking Galaxy
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