Week of June 13 Night Sky: See Mercury in the Morning – The Night Sky Guy
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Week of June 13 Night Sky: See Mercury in the Morning

Mars and Saturn will be dancing with the moon in a brilliant planetary showcase.

Picture of computer simulation shows Mercury close up with Earth, Mars, and Saturn
A computer simulation shows Mercury up close with Earth, Mars, and Saturn visible in the background. SKYCHART BY A. FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

Maiden’s Heart. After darkness falls on June 14, check out the waxing gibbous moon hanging out with Spica, the brightest member of the constellation Virgo, the maiden.

The cosmic pairing high in the southern sky will appear particularly dramatic for North American viewers, since the two objects will be separated by only four degrees—less than the width of three fingers held at arm’s length.

Picture of giant Spring Triangle
Look toward the southwestern evening sky to see the moon act as a guidepost for the giant Spring Triangle of stars. SKYCHART BY A. FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

 

The brilliant blue star acts as a wonderful starting point for learning some of the brightest constellations in northern spring skies. That’s because Spica forms an easily recognizable stellar pattern with nearby Arcturus and Regulus. This triangle is a great way to quickly track down three constellations: Spica in Virgo; Regulus in Leo, the lion; and Arcturus in Boötes, the herdsman. It’s the perfect celestial three-for-one deal!

Picture of Mercury
Look for the tiny planet Mercury near the horizon at dawn on June 15. SKYCHART BY A.FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

Mercury Shines. A wonderful observing challenge presents itself this week as the small planet Mercury peeks just enough out of the rising sun’s glare for skywatchers to catch a good glimpse.

About 45 minutes before your local sunrise on June 15, find an observing location that has a clear line of sight and look for a faint naked-eye star in the brightening glow enveloping the eastern horizon. The innermost planet will be only about six degrees above the horizon for most mid-northern latitude observers, so a pair of binoculars will really help to initially catch a glimpse before viewing it with the unaided eye.

Picture of Mars in the south-eastern evening sky
The moon will hang near red Mars on June 16. SKYCHART BY A.FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

It was only a few weeks ago that the red planet reached its biggest and brightest for 2016, and with Mars still being particularly close to our planet, at only 48.5 million miles (78 million kilometers) away, even small backyard telescopes using high magnification should be able to resolve the planet’s polar caps and other surface features.

Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, has plans to land an uncrewed cargo spaceship on Mars in 2018. And just last week, the ambitious space entrepreneur announced a broad proposal for a human mission as soon as 2025.

Picture of constellation Scorpius
On June 18, the moon will strike a pose with Saturn and the bright orange star Antares. SKYCHART BY A. FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI
Lord of the Rings. As the week goes on, Earth’s moon will continue its trek across our evening sky, and by June 18, the nearly full moon will be paying a visit to Saturn, settling less than five degrees from the ringed wonder.

Saturn was at its biggest and brightest for the year less than two weeks ago and is still an amazing sight through a small telescope, with its magnificent set of rings and retinue of small moons.

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