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An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

NIGHT SKy

June Night Sky

Enjoy our starry night sky

Be a considerate neighbor: Reduce nighttime glare.
Shield your outside lights downward, so no glare goes up to dull the night sky (or into your neighbor’s windows) and enjoy the beautiful, stars above.

June 2008 Night Sky

—CHARLIE CHRISTMANN

THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT
In the west, an hour after sunset, Leo the Lion—the king of beasts—roars. On June evenings, Leo slowly wanders toward the western horizon followed by the lion cub Leo Minor. Leo follows two other zodiac star groupings. The Gemini Twins are close to the west-northwest horizon; Cancer is between the Twins and Leo in the night sky.

Mythology tells us that first-up on Hercules’ list of endeavors was the task of killing the Nemean Lion. Nemean was a giant beast that roamed the hills of the Peloponnesian villages, causing death and destruction. This beast was strong and powerful. At first, Hercules attempted to kill the lion using his arrows, but they bounced off of the lion’s thick hide. Next, Hercules tried using his sword, but it bent in two. Hercules had to wrestle the beast. After a fierce battle, Hercules finally killed the beast by choking it to death. Hercules then wrapped the pelt of the lion around his body to protect himself for his second labor, killing the poisonous sea serpent Hydra. The lion found its way to the heavens to commemorate the great battle with Hercules.

Leo is full of interesting stars, the brightest of which is Regulus, meaning “little king.” It is a blue-white star about 77.5 light-years away. Regulus is a young star, about 3.5 times heavier than our Sun. It is spinning extremely rapidly, making a complete revolution every 15.9 hours, which causes it to have a highly flattened shape. If this star rotated much faster, it would rip itself apart. There is a pair of faint companion stars orbiting Regulus. The pair has an orbital period of over 130,000 years at a distance of some 4,200 astronomical units (one astronomical unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun).

Denebola is the tail star of Leo. It is a relatively young star with an age estimated at less than four hundred million years. Astronomers believe there must be a debris disk of cool dust in orbit around it, which either is or could form planets. Seen through a telescope, there appears to be an orange companion to Denebola, but in reality, the other is much further away and not gravitationally bound.

The binary Algieba (the lion’s mane), is a magnificent pair, which consists of an orange-red giant and a yellow giant. A small telescope is sufficient to image both stars. An unrelated fifth mag star, 40 Leo, can be seen next to them through binoculars. Remember, bigger magnitude values mean dimmer stars.

Look for these other multiple stars in Leo. Another optical double is tau Leo, a fifth magnitude star. Its seventh magnitude companion can be seen with binoculars. Using a low power telescope, 54 Leo can easily be resolved into a pair of 4.5 magnitude and 6.3 magnitude stars. Adhafera is an optical triple. Seen through binoculars, this star seems to have two companions of sixth magnitude, but they are not physically related together.

There is a long period red giant variable star called rho Leo you can study over the course of a year. Its brightness varies from 4.4 to 11.6 magnitude, with a period of about 313 days. It is found in the Lion’s foreleg.

So, get outside on the warm June evenings, turn off your outdoor lights, and enjoy the spectacular show we call the night sky. Who knows—you might even hear Leo roar.

THE PLANETS AND THE MOON
• The best chance to find Mercury is late in June. Look in the east about thirty minutes before sunrise.
• Venus, too, will be low in the east at sunrise, but it is bright enough to spot.
• Mars will be setting in the west about midnight this month, making it a tempting target high in the western sky after sunset. On the evening of the 7th, look for the red planet two degrees above and to the right of the waxing Moon.
• Jupiter is rising in the east at about 11:00 p.m. early in the month. By the end of the month, look for the planet to be rising at about 10:00 p.m. Look low in the southeast about two hours after sunset on the 19th. You’ll find Jupiter six degrees to the Moon’s left.
• High in the west after sunset is Saturn, above Mars. It will be setting after midnight most of the month. The Moon will be five degrees below Saturn on the 8th.
• The Moon will be exactly new at 1:23 p.m. on the 3rd. The Full Moon will happen at 11:30 a.m. on the 18th.
• Summer officially begins at 5:59 p.m. MDT on the 20th.

SATELLITES
The International Space Station keeps growing, and with every addition, it looks brighter in the night sky. Though the times in the chart (below) may change by a few minutes from those predicted, June is a great time to spot this orbiting outpost.

If you have a question or comment for Charlie, you may email him at: k5cec@yahoo.com.

Satellite location predictions from www.heavens-above.com.

DATE MAG STARTS     ENDS    
    Time Elev Dir Time Elev Dir
1 Jun 1.0 23:10:09 10 NNW 23:10:45 13 N
2 Jun 1.3 23:31:28 10 NW 23:31:35 11 NW
3 Jun 0.2 22:19:08 10 N 22:21:08 16 NE
4 Jun -0.3 22:40:23 10 NW 22:42:00 27 NNW
5 Jun 0.2 21:28:03 10 N 21:31:34 10 ENE
5 Jun 0.7 23:02:16 10 WNW 23:02:54 15 WNW
6 Jun -1.5 21:49:10 10 NW 21:52:30 34 ENE
7 Jun 0.2 20:36:51 10 N 20:40:09 10 ENE
7 Jun -1.6 22:10:58 10 WNW 22:13:27 44 WSW
8 Jun -1.4 20:57:53 10 NNW 21:03:07 11 ESE
8 Jun 0.6 22:34:05 10 WSW 22:34:26 11 WSW
9 Jun -1.9 21:19:34 10 WNW 21:24:09 19 SSE
10 Jun 0.3 21:42:26 10 W 21:45:14 11 SSW
11 Jun -1.9 20:28:05 10 NW 20:33:40 10 SE
12 Jun 0.3 20:50:43 10 W 20:54:05 10 SSW

 

 


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