Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

If you are not an early-morning riser but love spotting planets, you may want to reconsider and get up a bit earlier, say an hour or two before sunrise during June. Beginning on the morning of the 4th, all five naked-eye planets will form an impressive arc that covers about 90 degrees of the sky. From left to right you will see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Mercury will be only about 6 degrees above the east horizon and binoculars may help you to find it. So, including the planet seen just below your feet, you will be able to see, with the naked eye, six of the nine planets in our solar system. And yes, I still believe Pluto is a planet!

By the 24th, Mercury will have risen to about 12 degrees above the horizon and is much brighter, shining at magnitude -0.2, making it easier to see the entire planetary lineup with the naked eye. On the 26th, the crescent Moon makes its closest approach to Venus for the year at a separation of just 2.5 degrees and well worth getting up a little earlier than usual.

Jupiter, shining at magnitude -2.3, continues to climb into the early morning sky. By the end of this month, it will rise before midnight and will climb to an elevation of 45 degrees by the time morning twilight begins. Saturn rises a bit earlier than Jupiter and by midnight, late in the month, will be a good telescopic object to view, including its magnificent rings.

The Moon will be first quarter on the 7th, full on the 14th, last quarter on the 21st and new on the 29th. Looking east on the morning of the 24th, about 45 minutes before sunrise, the waning crescent Moon is found smack in the middle of an impressive line of planets, including Saturn and Jupiter on the right and then Mars, the Moon, Venus and Mercury to the left. Again, looking east on the mornings of the 25th through the 27th, about 30 minutes before sunrise, the waning crescent Moon approaches and then passes Venus and then Mercury.

We welcome the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, on the 21st, at 3:14 a.m. MDT.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will not be a first Saturday star party at the Etscorn Campus Observatory this month.

Clear Skies!

Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club