Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 20th, and Thursday, June 21st, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 20th, and Thursday, June 21st, written by Louis Suarato.

The First Quarter Moon occurs at 6:51 a..m. Wednesday. The Moon rises at 1:02 p.m., and will remain visible until setting at 1:38 a.m., Thursday. Look for Mercury low in the northwest before it sets at 9:40 p.m. with the constellation Gemini. Venus shines at magnitude -4.02 to Mercury’s upper left in Cancer. Venus and M44, the Beehive Cluster, are 1 degree apart. Find Jupiter by starting at the Moon and heading south toward Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, and another 20 degrees further to Jupiter. At 10:57 p.m., the shadow of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, joins its source crossing the face of the planet. Europa’s transit ends at 11:21 p.m., and at 1:14 a.m., its shadow transit ends. Saturn rises in Sagittarius at 8:56 p.m., followed by Mars, in Capricornus, two and a half hours later. If Mars appears less of a red planet these days, it’s because a massive dust storm is covering a quarter of the planet. The storm is so severe it has covered NASA’s rover Opportunity solar panels with dust, eliminating its power source.

The Summer solstice occurs Thursday at 6:07 a.m. in North America. The time of the summer solstice, or beginning ofastronomical summer, is marked by the Earth’s northern hemisphere tilting at its maximum 23.44 degrees toward the Sun. This northern tilt also causes the Sun to reach its northernmost azimuth, before appearing to “stand still” and then begins its trek toward more eastern, then southern sunrises. The word solstice is derived from the Latin word for Sun, “sol”, and middle English “stit”, meaning standing. The summer solstice is also the time for the longest day of the year, providing our region with 16 hours and 29 minutes of daylight. It is also when the Sun reaches its highest altitude of 70 degrees, 47 minutes, at 12:55 p.m..

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for their monthly meeting to be held Thursday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at miSci in Schenectady. Club member Dave Scott will provide an update on his Analemma project, discussing how the analemma data can be analyzed.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 18th and 19th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 18th and 19th.

The Sun sets at 8:36 PM; night falls at 10:53. Dawn begins at 3 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:16.

The 6-day-old Moon dominates the evening sky. Blazing with minus 9th magnitude, the 35% crescent occupies Leo. Tuesday’s Moon is brighter and fuller and migrates to Virgo. The Moon sets at 12:39 AM on Tuesday, and at 1:12 AM on Wednesday. The Moon is officially First Quarter at 6:51 AM on Wednesday.

Mercury makes its appearance, a low 1º in the western sky. It shines with minus 1st magnitude, appears about 5 arc-seconds in size and displays an 83% crescent. Mercury sets at 9:47 PM.

Venus, 23º to Mercury’s left, blazes with minus 4th magnitude in Cancer. It is about 20º high, about 15 arc-seconds in size and sports a 75% crescent. Venus lies about 1º from M-44, The Beehive star cluster, a great binocular object for beginners. Venus sets at 11:07 PM.

Jupiter, in Libra, lies 31º high in the southern sky. It blazes with minus 2nd magnitude. The largest planet continues to hug close to Alpha Librae, also called Zubenelgenubi. Telescopic observers can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) centered at 2:02 AM on Wednesday. Jupiter is best observed at 9:54 PM and sets at 3:03 AM.

Saturn rises at 9 PM in Sagittarius, shines at zero magnitude and appears about 18 arc-seconds in size. By nightfall, it lies about 15º high and is best observed at 1:38 AM.

Asteroid 4Vesta lies about 7º to Saturn’s upper right and close to open star cluster M23 – another great binocular view. Tuesday, the brightest asteroid reaches Opposition, when it lines up with Earth and the Sun. It is also historically close, only 170 million kilometers (105 million miles). At magnitude 5.3, Vesta is actually visible to the naked eye under dark skies. The best window for observation in moonless skies is from June 8th – 22nd. Vesta will look like a star which moves a bit westward nightly. Vesta has baffled astronomers. While the Moon reflects only 12% of its sunlight, Vesta reflects 43%. The DAWN spacecraft visited Vesta and found that its surface is not weathered, which accounts for its brilliance. 4Vesta is best observed at 1:06 AM and sets at 5:51 AM.

Mars rises at 11:20 PM in Capricornus. It shines with minus 2nd magnitude, appears 18 arc-seconds in size and is about 94% illuminated. Telescopic observers can see a giant dust storm that has covered a quarter of the planet; it has silenced the rover Opportunity by coating the solar panels that charge the rover’s batteries. Mars continues to brighten and appear larger in preparation for its own Opposition in July. It is best observed at 3:58 AM.

Neptune rises in Aquarius at 12:41 AM, near the star Phi Aquarii. It glows with 8th magnitude and appears a tiny 2 arc-seconds in size but has a distinctive blue-green tint. By Dawn, it is about 23º high. Uranus follows by rising in Aries at 2:21 AM, is brighter and slightly larger than Neptune, but only 6º high by Dawn. Both require detailed star charts available from astronomy websites and magazines.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 5:17am and sets at 8:36pm; the waxing crescent Moon rises at 7:15am and sets at 10:31pm. On Friday at dusk look to the west to catch the very thin crescent Moon sitting below and to the right of Venus. On Saturday after sunset the crescent Moon is positioned to the left of Venus. On Sunday the Moon approaches Regulus, the brightest star in constellation Leo.

This weekend, look east for the sparkling blue-white star Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra the Harp. Vega is the brightest of the Summer Triangle’s three stars. Look to the lower left of Vega for another bright star, Deneb, the brightest in the constellation Cygnus the Swan and the third brightest in the Summer Triangle. An outstretched hand at an arm length approximates the distance from Vega to Deneb. Look to the lower right of Vega to locate the Summer Triangle’s second brightest star, Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. Under a dark sky on a moonless night, you can see the Milky Way passing in between the Summer Triangle stars Vega and Altair. Usually the term Milky Way refers to the cross-sectional view of the galactic disk, whereby innumerable stars congregate into a cloudy trail, although every star that you see with the unaided eye is a member of our Milky Way galaxy. In summer, the Summer Triangle appears in the east at nightfall, high overhead after midnight and in the west at dawn. When the stars of the Summer Triangle light up the eastern twilight dusk in middle to late June, it’s a sign of spring giving way to summer. When the Summer Triangle is seen high in the south to overhead at dusk and early evening, it’s an indication that summer has receded into fall.

The moonless sky this weekend offers an opportunity to view globular star clusters. The greatest concentration of these objects is found in constellations Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. Each of these constellations holds seven Messier globulars. The clusters located in the big, sprawling figure of Ophiuchus are easier to catch since most of them are higher in the sky than the Sagittarius clusters. Start the Ophiuchus globular hunt with the biggest and brightest of the group, M10 and M12. You can see them in binoculars, however, like most they come into their own when viewed in a telescope. Head east for the dimmer M14, then seek out M19 and M62, which lie so far south. They look as though they belong to neighboring Scorpius. The most challenging of the Ophiuchus Seven are M9 and M107. They’re fainter and smaller than the rest. You will have to push the magnification a little higher when you search for them. If you look with enough care, you’ll discover that no two are exactly alike.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 13th, and Thursday, June 14th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 13th, and Thursday, June 14th, written by Louis Suarato.

The New Moon occurs at 3:43 p.m. Wednesday, leaving the night sky darker for your observing. Venus sets at 11:06 p.m. and is bright enough to see at twilight as it heads toward the west-northwestern horizon after sunset. Look about 8 degrees to the upper left of Venus for M44, also known as the Beehive Cluster. This open star cluster, consisting of about 1,000 stars,resides in the dim constellation Cancer. At the distance of 520 to 610 light-years, the Beehive Cluster is one of the nearest open clusters to our solar system. With a width of three Full Moons, this group of stars can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope.

As Venus is setting, Jupiter is high over the southern horizon in Libra, and Saturn rises in Sagittarius. Mars rises at 11:40 p.m. in Capricornus. The shadow of Jupiter’s moon Europa crosses the planet until 10:37 Wednesday night. Saturn is approaching its opposition at the end of this month, when it can be viewed all night at its brightest. Saturn’s rings are tilted at 25.5 degrees toward Earth, offering fine views of the Cassini Division and Encke Gap within its rings. Mars continues to brighten as we move closer to the Red Planet. Thursday, Earth and Mars will be separated by approximately 49 million miles, By month end, we will have moved about 7 million miles closer to our neighboring planet. Lunar perigee, when the Moon and Earth are closest during this cycle, occurs at 7:53 p.m. Thursday, 28 hours after the New Moon phase. Earth and Moon will be separated by 223,385 miles. Expect higher, and lower, than normal tides during this time. Thursday, after sunset, it will be a challenge to see the 2% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon, 16 degrees elongated from the Sun. Look low above the west-northwestern horizon before 9 p.m..

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 11th and 12th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 11th and 12th.

The Sun sets at 8:34 PM; night falls at 10:49. Dawn begins at 3 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:16.

The early evening sky contains two planets. Venus, in Gemini, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, appears 76% illuminated and lies about 20º above the western horizon. One can enjoy Venus either through binoculars or a telescope. Telescopes provide more detailed views of its crescent. When the observer is finished looking at Venus, he can scan about 8º to Venus’ left to see the Beehive star Cluster. Views through binoculars or telescope are enjoyable, especially for the first-time sky gazer. Venus sets at 11:09 PM.

Jupiter is high in the South, shining with minus 2nd magnitude and appearing 29º high. It is best observed at about nightfall. Telescopic observers can see its moon Europa disappear behind Jupiter at 12:38 AM Tuesday. They can also see the Great Red Spot at 1:16 AM on Wednesday. Jupiter sets at 3:28 AM.

Twilight’s end sees the arrival of Saturn and 4Vesta in the southeastern sky. Rising at 9:30 PM, Saturn is easily spotted, shining with zero magnitude in the top of the “Teapot.” Saturn occupies 18 arc-seconds in our telescopes and appears 11º high. The asteroid 4Vesta lies about 7º above Saturn and shines with 5th magnitude, but is a tiny 0.6 arc-seconds in our eyepieces. It rises at 8:49 PM and is best observed at 1:36 AM. Vesta is steadily brightening and growing larger in preparation for its Opposition next week. Observers need detailed star charts from astronomy magazines or websites to find Vesta.

Midnight adds Mars. It rises at 11:39 PM and is best observed about 4:18 AM. Mars shines with minus 1st magnitude and appears about the same size as Saturn. Mars too is growing brighter, larger and nearer in advance of its own Opposition in July.

Finally, the waning 28-day-old Moon rises at 4:32 AM on Tuesday. It shines at minus 2nd magnitude and is about 3% lit. It hovers about 1 degree above the eastern horizon. Wednesday, the Moon turns officially “New” at 3:43 PM and is invisible in that night’s sky.

Planet Pluto is hosted by Sagittarius. While it is possible to see this distant body in an eight-inch telescope, most people need to observe from a dark rural area and have a larger telescope, as well as a very detailed star chart.

In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, the planets Uranus and Neptune were discovered. Their orbits hinted another body out there. Percival Lowell, a wealthy Chicago magnate, funded his own observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona. The staff was tasked with finding the elusive “Planet X.” After years of observation and sifting through thousands of photographs, Clyde Tombaugh found it. When Lowell Observatory announced the discovery in 1930, Pluto was seen as a lone planet in the far reaches of our Solar System. We now know Pluto is a member of the Kuiper Belt, which consists of asteroids and comets. Smaller than originally thought, it was reclassified a “dwarf planet” in 2006. In 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft changed our knowledge about Pluto. It is about 2370 KM (1472 mi) in diameter – smaller than the Moon. Pluto rotates backwards once every 6.4 days. It is covered by methane ice, has mountains and fields of ice flows. Charon is the largest of its 5 satellites.

Pluto glows with 14th magnitude, is 3º high at nightfall and is 0.1 arc-second in size. It rises at 10:26 PM and is bestobserved at 3:06 AM. It is currently located 32.5 times the Earth-Sun distance.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 8 through Sunday, June 10, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 8 through Sunday, June 10, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 5:17am and sets at 8:33pm; the waning crescent Moon rises at 2:50am and sets at 3:42pm.

Venus, at magnitude –4.0, begins its slow descent sunward. It will remain the “evening star” until the end of September. On Friday evening at dusk, Venus and Pollux, the brightest star of constellation Gemini, are separated by a bit less than 5 degrees. Venus makes a line with the Gemini brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, to right of Venus in the next couple of evenings. Castor and Pollux are visible to the eye 75 to 90 minutes after sunset.

Jupiter, at magnitude –2.4, is a telescopic target when it reaches its highest around 11pm. Jupiter sets around 3:41 am on Friday. Saturn, at magnitude 0.1, rises in the south-southeast a little before 10pm. Saturn climbs to the meridian a little before 3am. Mars, at magnitude –1.4, is beginning to attract attention, in advance of its close approach at the end of July, as the planet’s disk is currently 16 arc seconds across. This is already larger than it appeared during four of the five most recent oppositions. Mars rises at little after midnight and culminates around 5am.

One of the season’s most interesting globular clusters is M4, in constellation Scorpius. The 5.6-magnitude cluster is positioned due south around 11pm. Look for a fuzzy object near red Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. This is M4, one of the closest globular star clusters to Earth. M4 has a brief observing window because of its southerly declination. M4 is different from typical globulars. The Scorpius cluster appears loose and ragged. That’s partly because it’s one of the nearest globular clusters, lying only 7,200 light-years away.

Look in the northeast near the star Vega and try to find Rastaban and Eltanin stars in the constellation Draco, the Dragon. Rastaban and Eltanin are noticeable because they’re relatively bright and near each other. These two stars represent the fiery Dragon’s Eyes of the constellation Draco. Draco is Latin for dragon. Rastaban and Eltanin are derived from the Arabic language. Eltanin means “the dragon”. Rastaban means “head of the serpent”.

Friday marks the 393rd. birthday of the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. In 1675, Cassini discovered the dark gap subdividing Saturn’s rings into two parts, now known as Cassini’s Division. He concluded that Saturn’s ring, believed by Huygens to be a single body, was composed of small particles. Cassini also discovered four of Saturn’s moons: Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione. He observed shadows of four Galilean satellites on Jupiter, and measured its rotation period by studying the bands and spots on its surface. He determined the period of rotation of Mars, and attempted the same for Venus.
The Saturn orbiter, launched in 1997 as part of the Cassini-Huygens mission, was named after Giovanni Cassini. Its Titan probe was named Huygens in honor of the Dutch scientist, Christiaan Huygens, who discovered Titan in 1655.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 6th, and Thursday, June 7th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 6th, and Thursday, June 7th, written by Louis Suarato.

Wednesday evening begins with Venus cradled in the arms of Gemini above the western horizon. The bright star to the upper right of Venus is Pollux. Pollux is the brightest star in Gemini,shining at magnitude 1.15. It is also the closest giant star to our Sun, located about 34 light-years away. Pollux’s radius is nine times larger than the Sun’s. To the right of Pollux, is the “head” of Pollux’s dimmer brother, Castor. Castor is a double-star shining at magnitude 1.90. As Venus is setting at 11:05 p.m., Jupiter can be found about 30 degrees above the southern horizon. Jupiter’s moon Io begins to transit across the planet at 22 minutes past midnight. At 1:02 a.m., Io’s shadow begins to follow its source. Io’s transit ends at 2:32 a.m., and its shadow transit ends 40 minutes later. Thursday night, two of Jupiter’s Galilean moons will be missing from your view. At 11:10 p.m., Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, disappears behind the planet, joining Io. Io will reappear out of the gas giant’s shadow at 12:20 a..m., and Ganymede reappears 36 minutes later. Saturn rises at 21:55 p.m., in the ”steam” of the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius. That “steam” is the dense star cloud and dust of the Milky Way. Mars rises at 1 minute past midnight in Capricornus.Mars’ brightness increases from magnitude -1.2 to -2.1 during June. Mercury is hidden by the Sun as it reaches superior conjunction on Wednesday.

The Last Quarter Moon occurs at 2:32 p.m. Wednesday, but doesn’t rise until 1:59 a.m. in Aquarius. Features of this phase of the Moon include the Apennine Mountains, which curve from the terminator toward the crater Copernicus. The Apennine Mountains curve around one side of the lava plain known as the Mare Imbrium. It is theorized that this mare was formed by a collision with another celestial object, possibly an asteroid, about 3.8 million years ago. It is one of the larger craters in the solar system. Toward the center of the Moon, away from the Apennines, and alongside the terminator, are the craters Herschel, Ptolomaeus, Alphonsus, and Arzachel. On the pole opposite the Apennines is the large crater Clavius. With a diameter of 140 miles, Clavius is the second largest crater on the visible side of the Moon.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 4th and 5th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, June 4th and 5th.

The Sun sets at 8:30 PM; night falls at 10:42. Dawn begins at 3:05 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:18.

The early evening sky contains only two bright planets. Venus, in Gemini, blazes with minus 4th magnitude and hangs 20º above the western horizon. It appears about 80% lit and sets at 11:08 PM. It is found 5º left of the star Pollux. Jupiter, in Libra, clings close to the bright star Alpha Librae, also called Zubenelgenubi, shines with minus 2nd magnitude and appears about 44 arc-seconds in size. Telescopic observers can see the moon Europa disappear behind the planet at 10:20 PM on Monday; it reappears at 1:48 AM, Tuesday. The Great Red Spot is visible at 12:03 AM on Wednesday. Jupiter is best observed at about 10:53 PM and sets at 3:57 AM.

Sagittarius houses two Solar System members. Saturn rises at about 10 PM and glows with 0.1 magnitude. By Midnight, it shines near the Teapot’s top, about 16º high and is best observed at 2:33 AM through binoculars or telescopes. The asteroid 4Vesta shines at 5.8 magnitude. It rises at 9:17 PM and is best observed at 2:10 AM about 6º northwest of Saturn. Although visible to the naked eye, Vesta is surrounded by similar looking stars. Detailed sky charts from magazines and astronomy websites are helpful in finding this brightest asteroid in the Solar System. Vesta is preparing for a June 19th opposition.

The Dawn sky is packed. We already mentioned Jupiter, Saturn and Vesta. Mars, in Capricornus, rises after Midnight, shines with minus 1st magnitude, appears about 90% illuminated and about 22º high. The Red Planet is becoming larger and brighter steadily and invites observation of its surface. Astronomy magazines provide Martian maps to assist sky watchers. It is highest at 4:39 AM. Neptune, in Aquarius, rises at 1:32 AM and glows with 8th magnitude near the star Phi Aquarii.

The waning Moon also occupies Aquarius on both nights. Tuesday, the 21-day-old Moon rises at 12:55 AM, blazes with minus 10th magnitude and appears about 64% lit. Wednesday, the Moon is a bit dimmer, about 55% phase and rises at 1:25 AM.

When you are done observing Jupiter, turn your attention to the star Porrima, in Virgo. The Latin name refers to a Goddess of Prophesy. The star lies midway between Spica, in Virgo, and Denebola, Leo’s tail. Porrima is a double star. Both stars are nearly identical. They are about the same brightness, third magnitude, and the same mass, about 1.5 times the Sun. They are sun-like, but significantly brighter and warmer. Like the Sun, Porrima and its companion are main sequence stars, fusing hydrogen into helium. Porrima was among the first double star systems discovered. Sir John Herschel calculated its orbit in 1833. They share a highly elliptical orbit and complete one cycle in about 169 years. An observer, with high power eyepieces in the telescope, can see them about 1.7 arc seconds apart.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 1 through Sunday, June 3, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 1 through Sunday, June 3, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 5:20am and sets at 8:28pm; the waning gibbous Moon rises at 11:03pm and sets at 7:50am. See the Moon near Saturn, and Mars to the east of the Moon and Saturn on Fridaymorning before daybreak. Look for the Moon to change its position from day to day as it moves in between Mars and Saturn before daybreak on Saturday, and moves up with Mars on Sunday morning. The predawn hours present a better view of the Moon, Saturn and Mars, when they will be shininghigher in the sky.

Look for Venus, at magnitude –3.9, hanging above the west-northwest horizon after sunset. Meanwhile, Jupiter, at magnitude –2.5, climbs higher in the southeast. Use a telescope to watch the plant details around 11pm when Jupiter approaches the meridian and it is less likely to be blurred by unsteady seeing conditions. Venus sets a little after 11:00pm and Jupiter sets a little after 4am. Later on Sunday evening, Jupiter will be just 1 degree north of star Alpha (α) Librae, in constellation Libra, the scales. Jupiter has been closing in on the wide double star for some time. In the next nights, Jupiter’s slow westward motion will carry it past the star. Use binoculars or a small telescope to watch the conjunction of Jupiter and the double star on Sunday.

Saturn, at magnitude 0.2, rises after 10pm at the southeast horizon. Mars, at magnitude –1.2, rises shorty after midnight. By early dawn Mars glares orange in the south. Mars is brightening rapidly as it’s on its way to close opposition in late July. The Martian disk currently spans 15 arc seconds. Saturn sits in front of the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer andMars beams in front of the constellation Capricornus,the Seagoat. Saturn will remain in front of Sagittarius for the rest of the year. Mars will stay in front ofCapricornus until November. Use Saturn and Mars to locate constellations Sagittarius and Capricornus for the coming months.

Constellations seem to twist around fast when they pass the zenith, the point in the sky or celestial sphere directly above you. Watch the Big Dipper, an hour after sunset. Ten days ago, the Big Dipper was floating horizontally in late twilight. Now it’s angled diagonally at that time. Ten days later, it will be hanging straight down by its handle.

Sunday marks the 70th anniversary of the dedication of the 200-inch Hale telescope at the Palomar Mountain Observatory in California. It was the largest effective telescope in the world until 1993. The telescope was named after Dr. George Ellery Halewho conceived, designed and promoted the project, though he died before it was completed. The 200-inch Hale Telescope is a workhorse of modern astronomy and contributes to a wide range of astronomical research including Solar System studies, the search for extrasolar planets, stellar population and evolution analysis, and the characterization of remote galaxies.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 30th, and Thursday, May 31st, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 30th, and Thursday, May 31st, written by Louis Suarato.

Civil Twilight, when the Sun’s center is 6 degrees below the horizon, occurs around 9 p.m. in our region. This twilight phase reveals the two brightest planets, Jupiter and Venus. Look about 25 degrees over the southeastern horizon for Jupiter, shining at magnitude -2.47. Jupiter’s moon Io, begins to cross in front of the planet at 10:37 p.m., Wednesday. The shadow of Jupiter’s moon Io begins to transit the gas giant at 11:07 p.m., Wednesday. Io and its shadow cross the solar system’s largest planet until Io’s transit ends at 12:46 a.m., Thursday. Io’s shadow transit ends at 1:17 a.m., Thursday. Brighter Venus, blazing at magnitude -3.98, can be found about 20 degrees over the west-northwestern horizon as twilight begins. Venus, the solar system’s hottest planet, is 80.5% illuminated. If you star hop from Jupiter to Venus, the first bright star you’ll come across is Spica. Further west is Leo’s brightest star, Regulus. Between Regulus and the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, is M44, the Beehive cluster.

The 98% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon, rises at 9:27 p.m., in the constellation Ophiuchus. The bright Moon overwhelms star clusters M23, and M24, 3 degrees to its east. Asteroid 4 Vesta is located between the two star clusters. With a diameter of 326 miles, Vesta is the second only to Ceres in size of asteroid belt objects. Discovered by astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on March 29, 1807, Vesta is the brightest asteroid visible from Earth. Saturn, three days past opposition and shining at magnitude 0.16, , rises in Sagittarius an hour after moonrise. Thursday night, the Moon passes 1.6 degrees north of Saturn. Look through binoculars to see both in the same field of view. Look two degrees below Saturn for globular cluster M22. Mars rises 23 minutes after midnight in Capricornus. Mars shines at magnitude -1.22. By July 27th, when Mars reaches opposition, its brightness will increase to -2.78.