May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Celestial Highlights for June 2014

Posted: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

by Robert C. Victor with twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller

Three planets are still easy to spot in the evening sky for most of June, and two of them are real showpieces, if you happen to have access to a telescope: Jupiter with its four satellites discovered by Galileo, its two dark cloud belts, and Saturn with its spectacular rings.

June 2014 at dusk (Northern California Residents, find your twilight sky map here.)

The six brightest star-like objects visible at dusk are: Jupiter (the brightest, of mag. –1.9 to –1.8), Mars (mag. –0.5 to 0.0), the stars Arcturus, Vega, and Capella (all near mag. 0.0), and Saturn (+0.2 to 0.4). (The smaller the magnitude number, the brighter the object.) Stars appear to twinkle noticeably, because of the Earth’s atmosphere. The planets generally shine with a steadier light, because they are close enough to Earth to show a disk, at least when seen through a telescope. Each point of the planet’s disk twinkles like a star, but if you add up the light from all the points, the sum is relatively constant.

June’s easily observed evening planets include Jupiter, sinking nearly to WNW horizon late in month, preparing to depart; Mars in S to SW; and Saturn ascending in SE to S. When you see three or more planets widely spaced in the sky, as they are in June, notice how they seem to lie in a nearly straight line across the sky: A line from Jupiter to Mars extended points to Saturn.

Stars: In what remains of winter’s collection, Procyon, the “Little Dog” star, departs early in June, and Capella reaches the horizon around month’s end, the date depending on your latitude. The farther south you are, the sooner Capella departs. Pollux, and nearby Castor, not quite first magnitude and so not shown on our twilight chart, are the only bright winter stars still visible in late June; look for these “Gemini Twins” to upper right of Jupiter. Regulus, heart of Leo, is in WSW to W. Blue-white Spica, spike of wheat in the hand of Virgo, and golden Arcturus, the “Bear Guardian” star in Bootes, the Herdsman, pass their high points in S. Reddish Antares, heart of Scorpius, ascends in SE. Altair rises N of E to lower right of Vega and Deneb, completing the Summer Triangle with them, in time for the season’s beginning.

Follow the waxing Moon in the evening sky as it passes near these planets and bright zodiacal stars: Jupiter on June 1; Regulus on June 3 and 4; Mars on June 7; Spica on June 8; Saturn on June 9 and 10; Antares on June 11; Jupiter again on June 28, but this time with the Moon very low in bright twilight.

Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

For evening planet-watchers: Watch the bent line of Jupiter-Pollux-Castor become straighter and sink closer to the horizon as June progresses. Follow Mars closing in on Spica all month: On June 1st, Mars-Spica are 14° apart; on June 30th, within 6°. On July 5th, the Moon, just past First Quarter phase and a little over half illuminated, will pass between Mars and Spica while they’re within 4° apart. In a colorful patriotic pairing on July 13th, the red planet will pass just 1.3° north of the blue-white star. Mars continues east against the background to pass 3.4° south of yellowish Saturn on Aug. 25. Moon, Mars, and Saturn will appear within a 5° field on the evening of Aug. 31. Mars will pass just over 3° north of reddish Antares on Sept. 28.

June 2014 at dawn(Northern California Residents, find your twilight sky map here.)

Four brightest objects: Venus at mag. –4 is the only naked-eye planet up in morning mid-twilight in June. Find this brightest morning “star” low in E to ENE. Next in brightness are three stars all of magnitude zero: golden orange Arcturus setting in WNW; blue-white Vega just west of overhead; and yellowish Capella low in NE, ascending as month progresses.

Other stars: Altair and Deneb, joining Vega to complete the Summer Triangle overhead; Fomalhaut low in SE to S; Antares, heart of Scorpius, setting in SW early in month; and Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, emerging below Venus late in month.

Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

The waning crescent Moon in morning sky passes near: Venus on June 24 (within 2°, and well worth getting up early to see!); and Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, on June 25. Venus will pass just 4° north of Aldebaran on July 1. The view of Venus, Aldebaran, and the Hyades star cluster in binoculars early that morning will be breathtaking!


Many beautiful sights await you this summer, in both morning and evening skies. Mark Monday, August 18 on your calendar. Be sure to look about an hour before sunrise that morning to catch the spectacular close pairing of the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. The June through September issues of the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar will provide illustrations of this and other gatherings. Those issues won’t be put online, but you can find out how to subscribe at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar/

We hope you will arrange some “star parties” this summer for your students to take in the beauty of the sky including the Milky Way, and to enjoy views of the Moon, planets, and “deep sky objects” through binoculars and telescopes.

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, California.

Robert D. Miller, who provided the twilight charts, did graduate work in Planetarium Science and later astronomy and computer science at Michigan State University and remains active in research and public outreach in astronomy.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.

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Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.