Week of June 3, 2013

This is the Saint Louis Science Center’s NIGHT SKY UPDATE for the week of Monday, June 3.  All times are given as local St. Louis time (Central Daylight Time).  For definitions of terminology used in the night sky update, click the highlighted text.

Information updated weekly or as needed.

Join us for our next star party, Friday, July 7, 2013 held in association with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For details, see the information at the bottom of this page.

The Sun and the Moon

Sunrise is at 5:38 a.m. on Monday, June 3 and sunset is at 8:21 p.m. providing us with over 14 hours of daylight.  Even after sunset, the light from the Sun will still illuminate our sky for nearly two hours.  This period of time is called twilight, which ends around 10:16 p.m. this week.  For those with a sun dial, solar transit or local noon occurs around 12:59 p.m. this week.

Moonrise for Monday, June 3 is at 2:33 a.m. and moonset is at 3:54 p.m.  On Monday, June 3 the Moon will be exhibiting a waning crescent phase with roughly 21% of the lunar disk illuminated.  New moon occurs on June 8.

International Space Station (ISS) Observing

ISS passes over St. Louis for the next week starting Monday, June 3 are a mix of evening and morning passes.  Due to the high number of passes over the next few weeks we will only list up through the end of the week.  The best passes are on June 4, 5, 6 and 8.  For more information check the table below.

Catch ISS flying over St. Louis in the morning hours the week of Monday, June 3. 

Date

Mag

Starts

Max. altitude

Ends

Time

Alt.

Az.

Time

Alt.

Az.

Time

Alt.

Az.

03 Jun

-2.2

21:20:47

10

S

21:23:25

23

SE

21:26:05

10

ENE

03 Jun

-1.7

22:56:56

10

W

22:59:59

35

NNW

23:03:03

10

NE

04 Jun

 0.3

00:36:29

10

NNW

00:37:27

11

NNW

00:38:26

10

N

04 Jun

-0.7

03:50:18

10

NNW

03:53:05

24

NNE

03:55:52

10

E

04 Jun

-2.8

22:07:40

10

WSW

22:10:55

61

NW

22:14:11

10

NE

04 Jun

 0.1

23:46:24

10

NW

23:48:10

14

NNW

23:49:56

10

NNE

05 Jun

-0.2

03:01:35

10

NNW

03:03:53

17

NNE

03:06:11

10

ENE

05 Jun

-3.4

04:37:36

10

NW

04:40:56

81

SW

04:44:16

10

SE

05 Jun

-3.4

21:18:38

10

SW

21:21:54

72

SE

21:25:11

10

NE

05 Jun

-0.3

22:56:33

10

WNW

22:58:54

18

NNW

23:01:15

10

NNE

06 Jun

 0.2

02:12:56

10

NNW

02:14:37

13

NNE

02:16:17

10

NE

06 Jun

-2.5

03:48:37

10

NW

03:51:54

55

NE

03:55:10

10

ESE

06 Jun

-0.8

22:06:53

10

W

22:09:41

25

NNW

22:12:30

10

NNE

07 Jun

 0.4

01:24:28

10

N

01:25:16

11

NNE

01:26:05

10

NNE

07 Jun

-1.5

02:59:44

10

NW

03:02:46

33

NNE

03:05:49

10

E

07 Jun

-2.3

04:36:34

10

WNW

04:39:23

26

SW

04:42:12

10

S

07 Jun

-1.7

21:17:24

10

WSW

21:20:30

39

NNW

21:23:38

10

NE

07 Jun

 0.2

22:56:46

10

NW

22:57:55

11

NNW

22:59:05

10

N

08 Jun

-0.7

02:10:54

10

NNW

02:13:34

22

NNE

02:16:14

10

E

08 Jun

-3.2

03:47:12

10

WNW

03:50:25

48

SW

03:53:38

10

SSE

08 Jun

 0.0

22:06:40

10

NW

22:08:34

14

NNW

22:10:28

10

NNE

Magnitude (Mag): The Measure of brightness for a celestial object.  The lower the value is, the brighter the object will be.

Altitude (Alt):  The angle of a celestial object measured upwards from the observer’s horizon.

Azimuth (Az):  The direction of a celestial object, measured clockwise from an observer’s location with north being 0°, east being 90°, south being 180° and west being 270°.

For information about ISS flyovers and other visible satellites, visit www.heavens-above.com

Detailed information regarding all unmanned exploration of our universe, missions past, present, and planned, can be found at Jet Propulsion Laboratories:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/

The Planets Visible Without A Telescope

Mercury

The elusive planet Mercury is once again with us in the early evening.  You only have a short time to catch this planet as it sets at 10:04 p.m.  Mercury will continue to climb higher in the western skies just after sunset until June 12 when it reaches maximum eastern elongation. 

Venus

The brightest planet in the sky is starting another evening apparition becoming visible about 30 minutes after sunset.  For the time being it may be difficult to spot since it will be low to the horizon and any trees or buildings west of you will likely obscure it from view.  Venus is currently seen in the constellation Taurus and will set by 9:40 p.m. 

Jupiter

The planet Jupiter will be visible shortly after sunset and sets around 9:07 p.m.  Unfortunately as the week progresses, Jupiter will get lower each day.  This week will likely be the last week to easily spot Jupiter after sunset.   

Saturn

Look for the ringed planet shortly after sunset low in the southeast.  Currently Saturn is found in the constellation Virgo just to the east of the bright star Spica.  Saturn will set by 3:54 a.m. 

Constellation of the Month

Each month we will highlight one constellation and some of the objects that can be found within the boundaries of that constellation.  At the start of the month we will list only a few of these objects and each week we will add another to the list.  Some objects will be visible to the unaided eye and some may require a telescope.  Many of the objects listed will require a map of the sky to find or may require repeat observations to notice various properties.  Links to star charts and other information that will be useful in identifying the objects listed will be given at the end of each week’s section. 

This month our constellation is Scorpius.  This is a prominent summer constellation that is rising by 9 p.m. and is above the horizon around 11 p.m.  Why focus on a something that becomes visible so late?  Unfortunately due to the growing daylight and twilight hours, we do not have dark skies until after 10 p.m.

Scorpius is one of the twelve zodiacal constellations.  Zodiac constellations were created by ancient astronomers to track the movement of stars that appeared to wander amongst the other stars.  They noticed that the wandering stars always followed a specific path in the sky.  Today we call this the ecliptic and the wandering stars we now know as planets.  Also found along the ecliptic are the Sun and Moon meaning that Scorpius and the other zodiac constellations are visible anywhere on the Earth.     

The name Scorpius comes from the ancient Greeks who saw this as the giant scorpion that killed the great hunter Orion.  Owing to the fact that Scorpius is visible around the world, there are numerous other interpretations for this grouping of stars.  One of my favorites comes from ancient Polynesia in which many of the ancient islanders believed this was the giant fishhook the Sky Father plunged into the oceans to pull up the islands. 

To find Scorpius look almost due south after 11:00 p.m. and you will find a large and bright fishhook shape of stars.  The first star in Scorpius you see through the veil of twilight is the red supergiant Antares.  Many people see this as the heart of the scorpion and it is our first stop in Scorpius. 

http://www.iau.org/static/public/constellations/pdf/SCO.pdf    

Object of the week for June 3 is the bright star Antares.  Also known as Alpha Scorpii, this is the brightest star in Scorpius and the 15th brightest in the sky.  It is unmistakable as it has a distinct reddish orange color.  The reddish color indicates the star is a red supergiant nearing the end of its stellar life.  In optical light Antares is 10,000 times brighter then the Sun.  Due to a cool surface temperature of 3600 Kelvin, Antares radiates a great deal of light in the infrared wavelength.  If you account for this, Antares is a whopping 60,000 times brighter then the Sun.  Antares lies approximately 550 light years away, is 15 to 18 times more massive than the Sun and has a radius of 3.4 AU (one AU = 93 million miles; average distance between Sun and Earth).  Due to its high mass, Antares will likely develop an iron core that will lead to a violent core collapse resulting in an explosion called a type II supernova

Antares is also a double and a variable star.  Both features will be difficult to observe but are worth looking in to.  Antares is a semi-regular variable that only changes by a few tenths of a magnitude.  The companion to Antares a hot B-class star called Antares B which lays only 550 AU away.  At this distance, Antares B is fully immersed in the solar wind from Antares.  With an angular distance of less than 3 arc seconds it will require at least a 6-inch telescope to resolve the companion.  If you are successful in splitting the pair you should notice that Antares B has a greenish color that is the result of a color contrast caused by the bright reddish light from Antares.

50th Anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium.  There are a number of events planned for the year that will celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Our next Star Party will be held on Friday, July 5, 2013, from dusk until 10 p.m.

Weather permitting, the St. Louis Astronomical Society and the Science Center will set up a number of telescopes outdoors and be on-hand to answer your questions.  Telescope viewing begins at 8:00 p.m.  Regardless of the weather on May 3, join us indoors in our Planetarium Theater for “The Sky Tonight”.  Showtime is at 7 p.m. (Please note this time changed from 8:00 p.m.  to 7:00 p.m. due to Laserium starting a 8:30 p.m.)

This free, indoor star program will introduce you to the current night sky, the planets, and the seasonal constellations. Doors open 15 minutes before show time. Shows begins at 8 p.m. Sorry, no late admissions due to safety issues in the darkened theater.

The St. Louis Astronomical Society hosts the monthly Star Parties at the Science Center which are held on the first Friday of each month. Our Monthly Star Parties are open to the public and free of charge.  For more information about the St. Louis Astronomical Society visit their website at www.slasonline.org

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