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Astronomy From Your Back Yard - 6/23 to 6/29 2010

By Dave Grosvold

The waxing gibbous Moon lies in the head of the constellation Scorpius after dusk on Wednesday evening. Reddish-orange Antares is still bright, riding below and to the Moon's lower left. On Thursday evening, Antares and the upper part of Scorpius lie to the right of the nearly full Moon after dusk.

June's Full Moon occurs on Saturday morning at 6:31 AM which will be after daylight begins. The first Full Moon of June is known as the Strawberry Moon, so named by the Algonquin tribe because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June It is also known as the Flower Moon or Planting Moon.

Observers in most of North America will also be able to witness a partial Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning when the Moon will be setting in Sagittarius as the Sun rises. For observers in our neck of the woods, the Moon will be entering the penumbra at around 4:30 AM, and then will enter the actual eclipse phase by 5:17 AM. For observers in Arkansas, the Moon will be below the horizon before it reaches the maximum point of the eclipse. The image at left shows the Moon just starting to enter the umbra as it begins to set at 5:20 AM CDT.

Venus is in the constellation Cancer at magnitude -4.0 and is still the bright Evening Star, shining in the west-northwest during and just after twilight this week. While Venus sinks in the west, Mars shines at magnitude +1.3 to Venus' upper left, a match in brightness for Regulus in Leo. The contrast in color between reddish Mars and blue-white Regulus is obvious to observers at darker-sky viewing sites. Regulus is falling farther to Mars' lower right each evening. The star to the upper right of Mars and Regulus is Gamma Leonis, which is only a little dimmer than these two.

Jupiter is now rising around 1:00 AM CDT this week along with the constellation Pisces, and shines high in the southeast before dawn. Nothing else in the sky at that time of night is as bright as Jupiter at magnitude -2.28. Jupiter's Great Red Spot is still free of the missing South Equatorial Belt for telescopic observers.

Saturn glows in the south west during evening, to the upper left of Mars. The diagonal line of Saturn, Mars, Regulus, and Venus, is shrinking; the three planets will bunch up low in the sunset in early August. This week right after dusk, you can catch Saturn, Mars, Regulus, Venus, Praesepe (the Beehive Cluster,) and Pollux in a single diagonal line drawn down the western sky.

Saturn's Rings are tilted 2° from edge-on in a telescope. Note the thin black shadow-line that the rings cast on Saturn's globe. The tilt of the rings will steadily increase over the next 15 years so that we can see more and more of the rings. As they tilt farther, observers with small telescopes will be able to see the Cassini Division, a thin dark band in the rings first observed by Giovanni Cassini in 1875.
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