Consider a planetarium program to help you plan your observations. There are many commercial products available, and a very good program (Cartes du Ciel) is available free at http://www.ap-i.net/skychart/en/start.
Constellations form a sort “of road atlas” to help you find your way in the chaos of the night sky. In ancient times the watchers of the sky imagined that the stars formed familiar objects, which helped them remember the various groupings of stars. Very few of these, in my opinion, come close to resembling what they originally stood for – can you see an archer in Sagittarius? If anything, I see a teapot – or they are very obscure to modern eyes – what the heck is a sea-goat (Capricorn)?
Many “constellations” common to us are not constellations at all, but rather they are asterisms – groupings of stars into a pattern. The most obvious asterism is the Big Dipper, which is part of Ursa Major, the Great Bear – an example, by the way, of what I was talking about above; in Great Britain they see a plough where we see a dipper. What it comes down to is that if you see a pattern that you can remember, that’s great, and there’s no need to try and imagine mythological heroes or obscure beasts – it’s whatever works for you!
Constellations have evolved to depict regions of the sky rather than the ancient object they represent. When we say that Mars is in Libra, we are saying that Mars is in the direction of the region of space we designate as ‘Libra.’ Also, keep in mind that the stars in a constellation or asterism are typically not in the same general vicinity, sometimes hundreds if not thousands of light-years closer or farther away. You could never travel to a constellation, because the familiar pattern would dissolve as you got closer.
Sunday (June 19)
Look for Saturn and Antares to the right (west) of the Moon.
Monday (June 20)
The Moon is exactly full at 5:02 a.m. MDT.
Summer solstice occurs at 4:34 p.m. MDT. The Sun will be as far north as it gets and then it begins its return southward as we start losing daylight (darn it!). This marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mercury (in Taurus)
Look for Mercury in the dawn sky (binoculars will help – but beware of the Sun!) just above the east-northeast horizon about 20 or 30 minutes before sunrise.
Venus (in Gemini)
Lost in the glow of the Sun.
Mars (in Libra)
Mars was closest to Earth on May 30th but it’s still big and bright. Look in the south in the evening.
Mars is now a great view even in small telescopes – but get your viewing in now or wait another two years or the next opportunity like this one!
Jupiter (in Leo)
Still a fine object in a telescope or binoculars. Look to the west-southwest during twilight.
Saturn (in Ophiuchus)
Look well east of Mars. The red giant star Antares is to Saturn’s lower right (west).
Uranus (in Pisces)
Low in the east just before dawn.
Neptune (in Aquarius)
Well up in the southeast sky at daybreak.
IRIDIUM FLARES AND INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)
Sorry – these are too numerous to list here! If you’re serious, load the ISS DETECTOR app on your smart phone or tablet. Alternatively, refer to SCAS member Chuck Percival’s column in the Sunday Pueblo Chieftain.
Dave Furry, SCAS Director of Education