Astronomy News for the Month of June 2020


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In this Newsletter...


Background screen credits: NGC5775
Imaged March 21/22, 2001
using the 16" Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope
as part of the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program.



The Month At-A-Glance
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.


03 day moon

The Moon

Phases

Apogee/Perigee

Moon/Planet Pairs

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of ~0.5°.

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The Planets & Dwarf Planets

Planetary Reports generated by "TheSkyX" software. These reports provide predicted data for the planets for the first of each month for the current year. The rise and set times for the Sun and the Moon for each day of the month as well as meteor shower radiants are also included in the reports. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

Planetary Highlights for June

"All seven major planets are visible during June's short summer nights. Mercury is a fine evening object, while Venus pops up in the morning sky after its inferior conjunction. The solar system's two dominant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, stand near each other in our skies all summer. They are nearing their peak and best seen in the morning hours. Mars is growing in brilliance and apparent size, gaining altitude in the pre-dawn sky. The trend hints at what should be a superb apparition in late 2020. Both Uranus and Neptune are within reach of binoculars, completing the rich planetary stage." Astronomy Magazine, June 2020, P. 36.

Mercury

Is at greatest eastern elongation (24°) on the 4th. Mercury is stationary on the 17th. Mercury is in inferior conjunction on the 30th. Mercury sets at 10:14 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:03 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury low to the west-southwest about 30 minutes after sunset during the first two weeks of the month. Mercury is in the constellation of Gemini this month shining at magnitude 0.1 on the 1st.

Venus

Is in inferior conjunction on the 3rd. Sets at 8:35 p.m. on the 1st. After conjunction, Venus returns to the morning sky. Venus is stationary on the 24th. Look for Venus sometime after the second week of June in the early morning sky before sunrise. Venus rises about 3:36 a.m. by month's end. Venus is in the constellation of Taurus shining at magnitude -4.7 on the 30th.

Earth

The Summer solstice occurs at 5:44 p.m. EDT on the 20th.

Mars

Rises at 1:46 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:36 a.m. by month's end. Look to the southeast before sunrise to spot Mars. Mars moves from the constellation of Aquarius into Pisces this month shining at magnitude -0.2.

Jupiter

Rises at 11:20 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:13 p.m. by month's end. Even though Jupiter is rising earlier in the evening, it is still best viewed after midnight when it has cleared the horizon. Look for Jupiter to the south before sunrise. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -2.7.

Saturn

Rises at 11:37 p.m. on the 1st and around 9:34 p.m. by month's end. As with Jupiter, look for Saturn to the south before sunrise. Saturn is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 0.3.

Uranus

Rises at 3:53 a.m. on the 1st and around 1:58 a.m. by month's end. Uranus is rising early enough this month to be spotted to the east before sunrise. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.9.

Neptune

Rises at 1:58 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:57 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is stationary on the 23rd. Look for Neptune to the south before sunrise. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 2:13 a.m. on the 1st and around 12:30 a.m. by month's end. Look for Ceres, to the south before sunrise. Ceres is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 8.8.

Pluto

Rises at 11:16 p.m. on the 1st and around 9:16 p.m. by month's end. Pluto is within a degree of Jupiter and may be visible if skies are dark enough. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.3.

As always, good luck at spotting Neptune, Ceres and Pluto, a large telescope and dark skies will be needed.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • The Arietids Meteor Shower - This is the strongest daylight meteor shower of the year. The duration extends from May 22 to July 2, with maximum activity occurring on June 8. The hourly rate is near 60 at maximum.

  • The June Lyrids - This shower is active during June 10 to 21, producing predominantly blue and white meteors at a maximum hourly rate of 8 per hour on June 15. The average magnitude of this shower is near 3, while 32% of the meteors leave trains.

  • The Zeta Perseids - This daylight shower occurs during May 20 to July 5. Maximum occurs on June 13. Radar surveys have revealed the activity of this shower to be near 40 per hour.

  • The June Boötids - This shower is currently active during June 27 to July 5 and possesses a maximum of activity that falls on the 28th... The shower is notable in that its meteors are primarily faint, with an average magnitude near 5; however, bright meteors do occur regularly.

    Meteor Shower Radiant Report

    For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.

    Meteor Scatter (or Meteor burst communications) - "is a radio propagation mode that exploits the ionized trails of meteors during atmospheric entry to establish brief communications paths between radio stations up to 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) apart." Tune your shortwave or your HF amateur radio to 54.310 MHz SSB and see if you can hear any pings. Try other frequencies as well... 6m FT8 digital - 50.313 Mhz & 50.276 Mhz, JP-65 digital mode and the carrier frequencies of the lower VHF bands for TV channels 2, 3 & 4.

  • Comets

  • "The fantastic photo ops of comet and deep sky continue, and timing with the New Moon couldn't be better. In case you didn't get last month's issue, on May 22 and 23 Comet PanSTARRS (C/2017 T2) joined the great galaxies Messier 81 and 82. By chance, during the Full Moon on June 5, the comet floats through the uninteresting bowl of the Big Dipper, then it poses less than a degree from M109 on the night of the 16th. The Moon doesn't even rise until twilight begins -- what good luck." Astronomy Magazine, June 2020, P. 42.

  • For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets, visit the Observable Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com webpage.

  • Eclipses

    Solar Eclipses

  • An annular solar eclipse occurs on the 21st across parts of Africa and Asia.

    "The Moon continues along the ecliptic to occult the Sun on June 21 in an annular eclipse visible from Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, northern India, China, and Taiwan.

    Greatest eclipse occurs near the India-China border with a 38-second duration and 99 percent coverage, resulting in a very thin annular ring. Guam is just outside the path of annularity and experiences a 98 percent eclipsed Sun near sunset." Astronomy Magazine, June 2020, P. 43.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Look for Mercury in the early evening sky soon after sunset.
  • Look for Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the early morning before sunrise.
  • Look for Venus in the morning sky after mid-month.
  • Look for Comet PanSTARRS in Ursa Major.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    Ocultations

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
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    Subscriber Gallery

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    Member Meteor Sightings

    This is a new section where I will post meteor, fireball, etc sightings that have been published on the American Meteor Society's web site. I want to make this an active section of the web pages and newsletter and would like to publish the links to member sightings. If you have any published sightings, please provide me with the links and I will post them here for all to enjoy.

    Event ID Date/Time Location Observer Link
    3587-2015 2015-11-22 17:38 MST CO Kevin S 3587aw
    3829-2015 2015-12-05 18:06 MST Highlands Ranch, CO Burness A 3829a
    3871-2015 2015-11-13 01:55 MST CO Charles N 3871a
    986-2020 2020-02-21 22:20 MST CO Lukas S 986

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)

    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    May 29, 2020
    Eight US Manufacturers Selected to Make NASA COVID-19 Ventilator

    Full Article & Images

    "After receiving more than 100 applications, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California has selected eight U.S. manufacturers to make a new ventilator tailored for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

    The prototype, which was created by JPL engineers in just 37 days, received an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on April 30.

    Called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), the high-pressure ventilator was designed to use one-seventh the parts of a traditional ventilator, relying on parts already available in supply chains. It offers a simpler, more affordable option for treating critical patients while freeing up traditional ventilators for those with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms. Its flexible design means it also can be modified for use in field hospitals."

    Read the latest news and discoveries from JPL's dozens of active space missions exploring Earth, the solar system and worlds beyond.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions.

    For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador web site.

    Juno - May 21, 2020
    JUPITER'S RACING STRIPES

    Full Article & Images

    "This enhanced-color image from NASA's Juno spacecraft captures the striking cloud bands of Jupiter's southern latitudes. Jupiter is not only the largest planet in the solar system, it also rotates at the fastest rate, completing a full day in just 10 hours. This rapid spinning creates strong jet streams, separating Jupiter's clouds into bright zones and dark belts that wrap around the planet."

    Images from NASA's JunoCam.

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: Juno and Mission Juno.

    The public can follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

    New Horizons - April 24, 2020
    Thoughts on Interstellar Navigation by Parallax

    Full Article & Images

    "Forever and forever we have taken the stars as fixed markers in the sky -- old friends to guide your way on land, at sea, in the air and even in space. We flew to the Moon decades ago and shot the stars all along the way. One needs a sense of direction to embark on the unknown. There was a new world to explore, but one framed by the old stars you learned when you were a kid in Ohio."

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store.

    For more information on the New Horizons mission - the first mission to the ninth planet - visit the New Horizons home page.

    TESS - May 13, 2020
    NASA's TESS Enables Breakthrough Study of Perplexing Stellar Pulsations

    Full Article & Images

    "Astronomers have detected elusive pulsation patterns in dozens of young, rapidly rotating stars thanks to data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The discovery will revolutionize scientists' ability to study details like the ages, sizes and compositions of these stars — all members of a class named for the prototype, the bright star Delta Scuti.

    "Delta Scuti stars clearly pulsate in interesting ways, but the patterns of those pulsations have so far defied understanding," said Tim Bedding, a professor of astronomy at the University of Sydney. "To use a musical analogy, many stars pulsate along simple chords, but Delta Scuti stars are complex, with notes that seem to be jumbled. TESS has shown us that's not true for all of them."

    For more information on the TESS mission, visit the Latest Tess Stories page.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions

    Visit JPL's mission pages for current status.

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    Mars Missions

    Be A Martian

    Mars website mobile version is here!

    MARS WEATHER
    Mars Daily Weather Report

    Mars on the Go! NASA Be A Martian Mobile App
    If you want the latest news as it happens, try our Be A Martian app.
    Download on Mobile Devices
    Android | iPhone | Windows Phone
    JMARS

    JMARS is an acronym that stands for Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing. It is a geospatial information system (GIS) developed by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility to provide mission planning and data-analysis tools to NASA's orbiters, instrument team members, students of all ages, and the general public.

    Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

    "The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) began in 1948, a decade before NASA. We are the world's only research institute to have sent instruments to all eight planets and Pluto.

    LASP combines all aspects of space exploration through our expertise in science, engineering, mission operations, and scientific data analysis. As part of CU, LASP also works to educate and train the next generation of space scientists, engineers and mission operators by integrating undergraduate and graduate students into working teams. Our students take their unique experiences with them into government or industry, or remain in academia to continue the cycle of exploration.

    LASP is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    LASP/MAVEN - April 22, 2020
    LASP awarded Earth Venture Mission Libera

    Full Article & Images

    "A new spacecraft proposed by scientists at CU Boulder could soon be NASA's nose in space, sniffing out the environments beyond Earth's solar system that might host planets with thick atmospheres.

    Astrophysicist Kevin France is leading the development of that mission, called the Extreme-ultraviolet Stellar Characterization for Atmospheric Physics and Evolution (ESCAPE). He's hoping it will provide the critical reconnaissance work in humanity's search for life far away from home."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars 2020 - Perseverance - May 26, 2020
    The Detective Aboard NASA's Perseverance Rover

    Full Article & Images

    "Mars is a long way from 221B Baker Street, but one of fiction's best-known detectives will be represented on the Red Planet after NASA's Perseverance rover touches down on Feb. 18, 2021. SHERLOC, an instrument on the end of the rover's robotic arm, will hunt for sand-grain-sized clues in Martian rocks while working in tandem with WATSON, a camera that will take close-up pictures of rock textures. Together, they will study rock surfaces, mapping out the presence of certain minerals and organic molecules, which are the carbon-based building blocks of life on Earth."

    Learn more about the upcoming Mars 2020 (Perseverance) mission.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - May 1, 2020
    Sols 2751-2753: 'Glas-going' to Drill!

    Full Article & Images

    "To me, it seems like Curiosity was sitting on top of the Greenheugh pediment getting ready to drill "Edinburgh" just yesterday, and yet we're already preparing to drill another rock in this weekend's plan, a target we've named "Glasgow." Combined with "Hutton," these three drilled samples will give us a wonderful snapshot of the range of compositions of the three major geologic units we've explored in this region."

    Follow the Mars Curiosity rover on Foursquare.

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare.

      Mars Rover Landing - Free for the Xbox 360 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - February 18, 2020
    NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Undergoes Memory Update

    Full Article & Image

    "From Feb. 17 to Feb. 29, 2020, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will go on hiatus from its science mission and its relay operations while engineers on Earth conduct long-distance maintenance. During the hiatus, other orbiters will relay data from the Mars Curiosity rover and Mars InSight lander to Earth.

    The maintenance work involves updating battery parameters in the spacecraft's flash memory - a rare step that's been done only twice before in the orbiter's 15 years of flight. This special update is necessary because it was recently determined that the battery parameters in flash were out of date and if used, would not charge MRO's batteries to the desired levels."

    MARS RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER HIRISE IMAGES
    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - August 23, 2019
    What's Mars Solar Conjunction, and Why Does It Matter?

    Full Article and Images

    "The daily chatter between antennas here on Earth and those on NASA spacecraft at Mars is about to get much quieter for a few weeks.

    That's because Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun, a period known as Mars solar conjunction. The Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona, which extends far into space. During solar conjunction, this gas can interfere with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers."

    Daily Mars Odyssey THEMIS Images
    Can be found at the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) website.

    The Odyssey data are available through a new online access system established by the Planetary Data System.

    Visit the Mars Odyssey Mission page.

    Journey to Mars - InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars - May 5, 2020
    InSight mole making slow progress into Martian surface

    Full Article and Images

    From SPACENEWS...
    "WASHINGTON -- An instrument on NASA's InSight Mars lander that has struggled for more than a year to make its way into the Martian surface is now making steady, but slow progress with the help of the lander's robotic arm.

    The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument on the InSight lander was to deploy a probe, or "mole," into the surface of the planet, using a hammering mechanism to burrow as deep as five meters below the surface to measure the heat flow from the planet's interior. The probe, though, got stuck shortly after it started burrowing in February 2019, getting no deeper than about 30 centimeters.

    The project has tried several ways to get the mole moving into the surface again. Most recently, spacecraft controllers positioned the scoop on the end of the lander's robotic arm on top of the mole, pushing down on it to help it move into the surface and to prevent it from moving back out, which has happened in the past."

    Interactive selection of raw images taken by the cameras aboard InSight.

    Learn more about the InSight Mission.

    Mars Missions Status

    New Mars missions are being planned to include several new rover and sample collection missions. Check out the Mars Missions web page and the Mars Exploration page.

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    Astronomy Links and Other Space News

    (If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel free to submit it.)

    Green Laser

    Colorado Astronomy Links

    Radio Astronomy Links

    Other Astronomy Links

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    Astronomical Lexicon

    Definitions of astronomical terms. Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

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    UT Logo

    Read the Universe Today Newsletter by clicking on the logo.

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    Acknowledgments and References

    Much of the information in this newsletter is from Astronomy® Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports, the Internet, "Meteor Showers - A descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk, Sky & Telescope web pages, and other astronomical sources that I have stashed on my bookshelves.

    The author will accept any suggestions, constructive criticisms, and corrections. Please feel free to send me any new links or articles to share as well. I will try to accommodate any reasonable requests. Please feel free to send questions, comments, criticisms, or donations to the email address listed below. Enjoy!

    More Acknowledgements and References

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