This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, June 27th, and Thursday, June 28th, written by Louis Suarato.
Try not to miss Wednesday night’s beautiful display of fivebright planets spanning from east to west, with one of the planets, and the Moon, at opposition and 2 degrees apart. Around 9:30 p.m., Venus shines at magnitude -4.05 over the western horizon. You may be able to see Mercury further north, and lower on the horizon before it sets around 9:45. Then turn your gaze about 30 degrees over the southern horizon where you’ll find -2.32 magnitude Jupiter. Jupiter’s moons continue their dance around their host with Europa beginning to transit the planet at 11:30 p.m., followed by its shadow two hours later. Europa’s transit ends at 1:46 a.m. Thursday, and at 3:51 a.m., its shadow leaves the face of the gas giant. The nearly Full Moon leads Saturn into the sky as it rises at 8:16 p.m., 10 minutes ahead of the ringed planet. The Moon reaches it Full phase, or opposition, at 12:53 a.m. Thursday. Saturn reached opposition, directly opposite the Sun, at 9 o’clock Wednesday morning. Saturn will be at its brightest, shining at magnitude 0.02, and is the best time to view its rings. Its rings are currently tilted at 26 degrees toward Earth. Saturn’s ring tilt will reach their maximum on September 18th of this year at an angle of a fraction over 27 degrees. Both, Full Moon and nearby Saturn will remain visible from sunset to sunrise. Thursday night, it will be Saturn’s turn to lead the Moon across the sky, rising 43 minutes earlier. Mars, at magnitude -2.07, rises at 10:53 p.m., and becomes stationary at 10 a.m., Thursday, and will move in a retrograde, or westward motion, for the next two months, on its way to the red planet’s closest approach to Earth since 2003.