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.