The Planets for June 2014
Low in the western evening twilight just after sunset, Mercury sets 90 minutes later than the Sun the first few days of May. On the 2nd it passes through the open cluster M35 in Gemini although the cluster will be a little washed out in the dying twilight. It will be in inferior conjunction with the Sun On the 20th after which in moves into the eastern morning sky. The last few days finds it rising an hour before the Sun very close to zeta Tauri, the fainter of the stars marking the tips of the bulls horns.
The “Morning Star” rises three hours before the Sun on the 1st of June and shines brilliantly as it crosses into the sparsely light constellation of Aries. It spends over half the month traversing Aries before crossing the border into Taurus on the 18th. By the end of the month it lies only 90 arcminutes from epsilon Tauri, the star marking the half closed eye of the bull. The thin waning crescent Moon rises just before Venus on the 24th and 12 minutes later than the planet on the 25th of the month.
High in the north eastern sky after sunset, Mars resides the whole month in Virgo. It came to the end of its retrograde loop on the 21st of last month and is again moving eastward against the background stars. As a result of this it moves ever closer to Virgo’s brightest star Spica starting the month
14 degrees from the star and by month’s end lying only
6 degrees away. The waxing gibbous Moon will be just to the west of Mars on the 7th and a little to the east on the 8th of the month.
The giant planet is getting harder to observe as by the end of June it will be setting only 90 minutes later than the Sun. The waxing crescent moon will pay Jupiter a visit on the 1st of the month and again on the 29th.
Still in a prime position for observation, the magnificent ringed planet can be located high in the eastern sky after the Sun has set. It still hangs on the stars of Libra-The Scales but is much brighter than Libra’s brightest stars Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. It also has a faint yellowish tinge which gives away its identity. On the 10th the waxing gibbous Moon will be a few degrees to the west of Saturn.
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The Planets for July 2014
Rising just over an hour before the Sun at the beginning of July, Mercury is fairly easy to spot as it moves to its greatest western elongation from the Sun on the 13th of the month. It begins the month in Taurus crossing the edge of Orion from the 11th to the 17th then moving into Gemini where it will spend the rest of the month. By the end of the month however it will rise only thirty minutes before the Sun and be lost in the Sun’s glare. The thin waning crescent Moon rises a few minutes before the Mercury on the 25th.
Also in the early morning eastern sky among the stars of Taurus at the start of the month, Venus is much easier to spot than fainter Mercury. It outshines everything in its neighborhood until joined by the waning crescent Moon on the 25th. Venus moves into Gemini on the 20th where, like Mercury it remains for the rest of the month.
At its greatest distance from the Sun on the 4th with the Sun 152,096,454 km from the earth.
High in the northern sky after the Sun sets, Mars crosses the meridian around 6:30pm at the beginning of July. Less than
9 degrees to the north east of the red planet at this time lies the minor planet Ceres shining at
magnitude 8.4. Within a half a degree of Ceres the 7th magnitude asteroid Vesta can be located. As the month progresses Mars moves eastward among the stars passing just over
1 degree from Virgo’s brightest star, Spica on the 14th when the contrasting colours of the two bodies will be most noticeable. The Moon pays the area a visit on the 6th of the month.
Low in the western evening twilight directly after sunset at the beginning of the month, Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun on the 25th and not visible until its appearance in the morning sky late in August.
The ringed planet rises at 1:45pm on the first of the month and so by sunset is high in the north eastern sky in the constellation of Libra. It appears almost stationary for the entire month and on the 22nd comes to the end of its retrograde motion and resumes its slow journey eastward against the background stars. The gibbous waxing Moon is close by Saturn on the 7th and 8th of the month.
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The Planets for August 2014
The smallest planet will be on the opposite side of the Sun to the Earth on the 9th of the month after which it appears in the western evening twilight. On the 31st of June it will be setting 90 minutes later than the Sun and less than one
1 degree from Virgo’s fifth brightest star, beta Virginis (Zavijava). This is a yellow star and lies at a distance of 33 light years. The thin waxing crescent Moon will be
to the south of the planet on the 27th of the month.
At the beginning of June the “Morning Star” will rise 90 minutes before the Sun among the stars of Gemini-The Twins. However as the month progresses it will be rising ever later until by the month’s end will rise only 40 minutes before the sun and in a brightening twilight sky. On the 18th Venus will pass only
from the giant planet Jupiter and on the 24th the waning crescent Moon joins the pair in the early morning twilight.
Situated high in the north western sky after sunset, the red planet spends the first ten days of the month in Virgo before crossing into Libra on the 11th for a rendezvous with Saturn on the 22nd. It will remain within
5 degrees of Saturn for the rest of the month. The 3rd of the month finds the Moon just to the north of Mars and less than
The largest of the planets, Jupiter returns to the morning sky this month but probably not worth the effort until the end of the month. It will then be a few degrees to the east of the Beehive star cluster and rising almost 90 minutes before the Sun. After a close encounter with Venus on the 18th the Moon joins the pair on the 24th.
Still finely balanced on the scales of Libra, Saturn rides high in the northern sky after the Sun has set early in June. Libra’s second brightest star, alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi) sits directly between Saturn and the planet Mars on the 19th of the month and it is worth noting the subtle colour contrast of these three bodies. The Moon joins the vista on the 4th of the month.
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