Stuttgart (dpa). Already shortly after sunset Venus can be seen in the western evening sky in June. At nightfall it shines as a conspicuous star. It is often called "evening star", although it is not a self-luminous gas sphere but a planet. Planets can only be seen because they are illuminated by the sun. At 16. the crescent of the waxing moon passes Venus – a nice sky view around 23 o’clock.
31.05.2018, 2:14 pm
But Venus is not the only bright planet attracting the attention of nature lovers this summer. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are also strikingly bright and easy to observe. Jupiter is the second brightest planet after Venus. In the evening sky it can be seen in the southeastern sky in the constellation Libra. The giant planet retreats from the morning sky. At the beginning of June it sinks under the southwest horizon shortly before half past four in the morning, at the end of the month already half an hour after two o’clock.
Saturn faces the sun and can be seen throughout the night. On 27. the ring planet comes in opposition to the sun in the constellation Sagittarius. The yellowish glowing Saturn can be seen in the evening sky low in the southeast. Around midnight it is seen in southern direction. Saturn reaches its highest position in the south shortly after one a.m. At daybreak it finally sets in the southwest.
Saturn is second largest and second heaviest planet
At opposition Saturn reaches its shortest distance from Earth. It will then be separated from us by 1353 million kilometers, which is nine times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. In the telescope one recognizes not only its splendid ring system, but notices also that it appears not circular but oval. Due to its rapid rotation Saturn is considerably oblate. A Saturnian day lasts only ten and a half hours.
At 120.500 kilometers equatorial diameter and 95 times Earth’s mass, Saturn is the second largest and second heaviest planet in our solar system. It is surpassed only by Jupiter. Almost thirty years the ring planet is on the way, in order to circle around the sun once. It is the slowest of the bright, clear planets. Faster Jupiter, which makes its way around the sun in twelve, gradually stalks Saturn. On 21. December 2020 Jupiter will then catch up with the ringed planet. Such a position is called "Great Conjunction". It takes place just before Christmas 2020 in the constellation Sagittarius. The following Great Conjunction will not occur until mid-November 2040.
The second half of the night in June is dominated by Mars. Its brightness continues to increase significantly. Thus it competes with Jupiter at the end of the month. At the end of July, the yellowish-red planet will finally surpass the ringed planet in brilliance. Mars in the constellation Sagittarius shifts its rises to the time before midnight. At the beginning of June it rises shortly after one o’clock in the morning, at the end of the month already half an hour before midnight.
Insight research probe on its way to Mars
Currently, the American research probe Insight is on its way to Mars. It was born on 5. May 2018 launched and is scheduled for 26. Nov. Landing on the red planet in 2018. The probe will take and examine soil samples, measure the heat flow from the Martian interior and register Mars quakes.
Twice the moon meets Saturn in June. On 1. the still almost full earth satellite passes just north of the ring planet. Two days later the waning moon meets the planet Mars. The new moon phase occurs at 21:43 on 13. a. Two days later the moon passes its closest orbital point to the earth, coming within 359 500 kilometers of it. At the beginning and at the end of the month it stays far from the earth. On 2. separates it 405 320 kilometers from us and on the 30. then 406 060 kilometers. In the evening of the 23. the moon overtakes Jupiter in the constellation Libra.
On the night of 23. on 24. June you can observe with binoculars the picturesque appearance of the "golden handle" on the moon. To the north of the lunar sphere, at the light boundary of the waxing moon, a small, bright tick or handle can be seen shining on the dark side. The Golden Handle appears when the Sun rises over the so-called Rainbow Bay. It borders on the rain sea and is a half sunken, gigantic ring wall, whose southeastern part was flooded by the lava masses of the rain sea.
Fixed star sky now has summer character
Just ten days after new moon the sun rises above the rainbow bay. At first the peaks of the Jura Mountains light up, while the basin floor and the mountain range are still in the deep darkness of the lunar night. If you use a lunar map for orientation, you will notice that the lunar formations have Latin designations. The rainbow bay is called Sinus Iridum and the rain sea Mare Imbrium. Full moon will be on 28. reached at 6:53 o’clock in the constellation Sagittarius.
The evening fixed star sky has now summer character. The spring triangle of Arcturus in Bootes, Regulus in Leo and Spica in Virgo has moved into the western half of the sky. In the east, however, the summer triangle with Vega, Deneb and Atair is completely risen. The Big Dipper is still high above our heads and easy to find. Deep in the north the circumpolar capella is visible.
High in the southwest, one of the first stars to shine in the progressing twilight is the orange-red Arcturus. Almost at the same time the bluish-white sparkling Vega appears high in the east. Vega is the main star in Lyra. In the west the lion approaches its downfall.
On 21. June exactly at 12:07 o’clock
Deep in the south the scorpion crawls along the horizon. Its deep red main star Antares is hard to miss. North of the scorpion one encounters the extensive but only faint starry image of the serpent bearer with the snake. Between Big Dipper and the bright Arcturus is the constellation of the hunting dogs. In ancient times, this inconspicuous constellation did not yet exist. It was introduced only in modern times by the Danzinger alderman and amateur astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1680. Hevelius owned one of the largest and most important private observatories of his time, which unfortunately fell victim to flames.
The sun reaches the 21. June peaks exactly at 12:07 p.m. in its annual orbit. This time marks the astronomical beginning of summer. After that the sun starts its descent to the celestial equator again. The apex of the sun’s orbit is therefore also called summer point. It lies in the constellation of Taurus near the border to Gemini a little east of the star Propus. On the same day the sun changes to the constellation Gemini at 10 p.m.
The 21. June is the longest day of the year in our latitudes. It takes 17 hours and three minutes in Hamburg, and 16 hours and five minutes in Munich.