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Friday 22 May 2015  •   5 Heather Moon 2015

Viewing the night sky in Heather Moon 2015

18 May - 16 June 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 2 June, 17:19 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Heather Moon 2015

Venus and Jupiter are prominent in the evening sky, with Venus being much brighter, but also nearer the sun. The moon is in the sky with them on the evenings of 21-24 May. The two planets come closer to each other during the month, and by 16 June, they are a gorgeous sight together in the west after sunset. Before that, on 1 June, Venus lines up nicely with Castor and Pollux, and then Venus reaches its greatest elongation, 45.4° east of the sun, on 6 June. Saturn comes to opposition on 23 May. Opposition is when an outer planet is opposite the sun in the sky, as seen from Earth: the ?full moon? or midnight position, if you like. It is also the approximate time when it is nearest to Earth. Saturn rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, and shines brightly all night on the borders of Scorpius and Libra. 1340 million kilometres or 75 light minutes is its distance from us at its closest pass. Its rings well tilted and to give a magnificent view from the Earth; do try to look through binoculars or a telescope to see them. See if you can spot its bright moons Titan and Rhea, as well as maybe Tethys and Dione. The nearly full moon is nearby on the night of 1/2 June. The old moon occults Uranus before sunrise on 12 June over SE Australia and over New Zealand and the South Pacific in daylight. On 15 June, the very old crescent occults Mercury in daylight over SE Asia and the nearby Pacific.

The month ahead: Oak Moon 2015

17 June - 15 July 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 2 July, 03:20 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Oak Moon 2015

Venus and Jupiter shine together brightly in the western evening sky after sunset, with Venus the brighter of the two. They are lovely to see, especially early on in the month when they are higher above the horizon as dusk falls. On 20 June, the new moon is near the pair, and Venus, Jupiter and the bright star Regulus make a rough line in the sky. The two planets are closest on 1 July, when Venus passes half a degree south of Jupiter. As seen from Europe, the pair are closest on the evening of 30 June, probably best seen within an hour or so of sunset, low in the west. If the skies are clear either evening, it will be worth getting to a place where you can see them. By the end of the month, the pair are much lower in the evening twilight, and Jupiter is very hard to see. Saturn is still bright in the evening and night sky between the stars of Libra and Scorpius. The moon is nearby on the night of 28/29 June. On 24 June, Mercury reaches 22.5°W of the sun in the morning sky, better seen from the southern hemisphere. On 9 July, the moon occults Uranus over the southern Indian Ocean. Mars is out of view on the far side of the sun. The New Horizons space mission is due to fly past Pluto and its moons on 14 July. Pluto is the final member of the iconic 1930-2006 set of nine planets to be explored.

William Morris
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