Science

The Sky Above You – June 2022

By Duncan Lunan

Before dawn will be the best time to see the Tau Herculid shower from Comet Schwassman-Wachman 3, on the night of May 31st – June 1st, although in Scotland, especially in the far north, the sky will probably be too bright to see many.  There may be three peaks to the meteor shower, all brief, and all around 6 a.m., though here in Troon the Sun rises at 4.41, and 4.17 a.m. in Orkney.   In June and July, looking for noctilucent clouds in the north is a better bet.  These strange ‘night-glowing’ clouds have been reported since the mid-19th century, and appear to be formed of ice crystals reflecting sunlight from below the horizon, but the air should be too thin at their height to support ice crystals, let alone have winds strong enough to move them like cirrus clouds at lower levels.

The Moon will be Full on June 14th, which will be a Supermoon, at Full when at its nearest to Earth  (perigee).  The Moon will be New on June 29th, 8 days after the Summer Solstice on June 21st

The planet Mercury reappears in the morning sky mid-June, to lower left of Venus and already at its furthest from the Sun to the east by June 16th.  By the end of June Mercury rises at 3.30 a.m., with Venus and the waning crescent Moon above it to the right, and on June 23rd the BepiColombo probe will make its second flyby of Mercury, before going into orbit there in 2025.  Mercury appears near the Moon on the 27th.

Venus remains brilliant in the morning sky, rising about 3.00 a.m. in June.  On 12th June Venus passes below Uranus, in Aries, and Venus is near the Moon on the 26th, above the Hyades cluster in Taurus by the end of the month.

Mars was near Jupiter on May 29th and 30th, and rises about 3.30 a.m., near the Moon on the 22nd and occulted by it as seen from Polynesia.

The dwarf planet Ceres is one degree south of the Moon on June 1st, and Vesta is less than a degree north of the Moon on June 19th, occulted by it as seen from the tip of South America and South-West Africa.

Jupiter is in Pisces, still near Mars in early June, and on June 22nd, one day after the solstice, the Moon will be almost midway between Jupiter and Mars, before Jupiter moves into Cetus on the 26th.  There are transits of Jupiter on June 24th and 26th by the shadows of Io and Ganymede respectively, and during the latter all four large moons will be to the left of the planet.

Saturn, also in Capricornus, rises about 1.30 a.m. at the beginning of June, 11.30 p.m. by the end, and appears near the Moon on June 18th and 19th.  On June 5th Saturn reaches its ‘stationary point’, after which its motion in the sky will appear to reverse as it’s overtaken by the Earth. 

In June Uranus reappears in the morning sky, in Aries, rising about 3.30 a.m., and is passed by Venus on June 12th and the Moon on June 24th, when it will be occulted by it as seen from Hawaii and north Australia.

Neptune is in Pisces, rising about 1 a.m., on the boundary with Aquarius, in June.  Neptune is near the Moon on the 20th, and reaches its stationary point on the 28th.

The continuing story of the James Webb Space Telescope is all good.  The telescope has been turned through the various extreme positions which it can reach, while remaining behind the protection of its multi-layered sunshade, all of which went well.  Images of stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud have proved to be at higher resolution than those previously obtained by the WISE and Spitzer space telescopes, and much closer to home, on May 24th the JWST successfully tracked 6841 Tenzing, a main belt asteroid named after Tenzing Norgay, just before the 69th anniversary of his ascent of Everest with Edmund Hillary on May 29th, 1953, demonstrating its capabilities for exploring the outer Solar System as well as the remote Universe.

A comparison of views by NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA-JPL-Caltech (left), NASA-ESA-CSA-STScI (right))

Duncan Lunan’s most recent book, The Other Side of the Interface, was published by Other Side Books at the beginning of 2021, and is available through Amazon or through bookshops, or from the publishers.  For details and for his other books see Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.

You can download a copy of the June Star Map here: