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Friday 24 June 2016  •   20 Oak Moon 2016

Viewing the night sky in Oak Moon 2016

5 June - 4 July 2016

Map of night sky at full moon: 20 June, 11:02 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Oak Moon 2016

On 5 June, Mercury reaches 24.18°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky, a great view from the southern hemisphere, but hard to see from the north, where it is very low down.

Venus is behind the sun, but Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are still very bright in the evening sky, and provide a wonderful spectacle for sky watchers all month.

Jupiter is in the south of Leo, and sets around midnight. The moon is nearby on 11 June. The spacecraft Juno is due to arrive at Jupiter on 4 July to begin over a year of detailed observations.

Mars is in Libra. Over the night of 29/30 June, with its close encounter with Earth well past, Mars halts its westward journey among the stars, and moves back eastwards again, on a slightly more southerly course.

Saturn is in Ophiuchus, where it is all year, and still moving slowly westwards. It is considerably brighter than Antares, the great red star once known as the heart of the Scorpion. Both Mars and Saturn set in the early hours. The moon is near Mars on 17 June, and 18 June for Saturn.

On 6 June, on its way back westwards through the stars, the very faint Pluto (magnitude 14.1) passes 2.5 minutes of arc south of the reasonably bright star Albaldah or Pi Sagittarii (magnitude 2.87).

The month ahead: Holly Moon 2016

5 July - 2 August 2016

Map of night sky at full moon: 19 July, 22:57 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Holly Moon 2016

Towards the end of the month, Mercury begins to rise into the evening sky from behind the sun, somewhat better seen from the southern hemisphere. Also rising into the evening, but lower down nearer the sun, is the brighter Venus. On 16 July, when the pair of planets is still very near the sunset, Mercury passes half a degree north of Venus. On 30 July, Mercury passes 0.3° north of the less bright star Regulus, the main star of Leo.

Jupiter is quite a bit further out from the sunset than Mercury and Venus, and sets in the late evening. The moon is nearby on 9 July. Indeed, as seen in daylight from far SE Africa and parts of the southern Indian Ocean, and after dark from Wilkes Land in Antarctica, the Moon passes in front of Jupiter in the first of a series of four occultations.

Earth is moving quickly away from Mars, and the latter is less bright now in the constellation Libra. The moon passes well to its north on 14 July. On 2 August, it moves forward again into Scorpius, still managing to outshine its great red star, Antares.

Saturn, also increasingly far away, continues its slow path westwards through Ophiuchus in the evening sky, to the north of Antares. The moon is near on 15 July. Both Mars and Saturn set before midnight.

Pluto comes to opposition on 10 July, when it is 4839 million km or 4.48 light hours from Earth. As seen from here, it is very faint, and you need a good telescope just to see it as a faint prick of light.

Look out for the Delta Aquarid meteors on 27/28 July, especially just before the moon rises.

William Morris
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