Sky Lights ~ Cancer
June 21 - July 22, 2011
Planets ... those seen with the unaided eye
Jupiter at magnitude -2.3 rises higher each morning as it pulls away from Mars and Venus. 6/30 Morning Planets Map The gaseous giant planet rises in a dark sky at 2:15am in the beginning of Cancer and at 1:00am by its end. Jupiter dazzles in the dark sky for night owls and early birds. 6/23, the Last Quarter Moon lies to the right (west) of Jupiter. 6/23 Morning Map 6/25 the waning Crescent Moon approaches Jupiter. 6/25 Morning Map 6/26 the waning Moon is closest to Jupiter. 6/26 Dawn Map 6/27 the waning Crescent lies between Jupiter and Mars. 6/27 Dawn Map
Mars is easier to see as it rises higher above the morning horizon, though you may still need binoculars to spot the planet in a twilit sky. Each morning our Red Planet, at magnitude 1.4, can be viewed in a dark sky rising about 3:45am in the beginning of Cancer and at 3:15am by its end. 6/27 is a morning delight; Our Red Planet lies below the Pleiades (M45), a mini-dipper-shaped star cluster, and above reddish Aldebaran, the eye star of Taurus the Bull, while the waning Crescent Moon lies between Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter, the Moon, Mars and Venus line up diagonally. Be sure to compare the ruddy hue of Mars to the color of slightly brighter Aldebaran during Cancer. 6/27 Dawn Map Also see Star Gazer's 1 minute video for the mornings of 6/27+28 and the evenings of 6/30 + 7/3. Note: As Cancer progresses the distance between ascending Mars and descending Venus increases. Current Missions to Mars
Venus at magnitude -3.8 is bright enough to see in dawn's early light, however an unobstructed eastern view is needed to get a glance of the horizon-hugging planet. The planet rises around 5:00am during the end of June and sinks out of sight in July. 6/29 a whisker thin Moon lies west of Venus and 6/30 the last vestige of the Moon lies below and very near the planet. You may need binoculars to catch a glimpse of the diminishing Moon. Jupiter, Mars, Venus and the Moon line up diagonally on both mornings. 6/30 5am Map By the first week of July Venus disappears in the Sun's glowing embrace. The planet reappears very low on the western horizon September 30 and is easier to view as it rises higher in October. Europe's Mission to Venus
Mercury at magnitude -0.4 reappears low on the north-northwest horizon during the last week of June. 6/30 our innermost planet aligns with the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux, at an altitude of 8º (degrees), 30 minutes after sunset. Binoculars are helpful in first spotting the planet and an unobstructed horizon is necessary. The further south you are the higher Mercury is in a darker sky. 6/30 Dusk Map/Text 7/2-3 look for the youngest Crescent Moons and Mercury. Approximate Moonsets: 9:30pm, 10:15pm Mercury sets around 9:45 pm during Cancer. 7/2 Dusk Map ~ 7/3 Dusk Map Mercury dims as the month unfolds. By 7/15 Mercury shines at magnitude 0.1. July 19/20 the planet is at greatest elongation, 27º from the Sun's glaring light, but shines dimmer at magnitude 0.3. The planet's altitude varies little during Cancer. MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.
Saturn at magnitude 0.9 is located in the southwest at nightfall. The Lord of the Rings moves toward the western horizon until it sets, around 1:30am in the beginning of Cancer and at midnight by its end. The planet's yellowish glow is eye-catching about 15º (degrees) to the right of bluish Spica. Saturn is a tad brighter than Spica. Look for the large northern-tipped isosceles triangle formed by Saturn and Spica at the base and golden Arcturus at the apex. Use the Big Dipper to locate Saturn (see Arcturus below for details). Note: Leo the Lion with its bright blue-white heart star, Regulus, lies west of Saturn; vary time/date on this chart to see the whole sky. July 2/3 Saturn is at quadrature. 7/6 Saturn is seen between the waxing Crescent Moon and Spica. 7/6 Map/Text 7/7 Saturn, the almost First Quarter Moon and Spica form a triangle. 7/7 Map Text 7/8 Saturn, Spica and the now waxing Gibbous Moon line up. 7/8 Map/text Saturn's western retrograde motion has been inching the planet toward Virgo's dim star, Porrima, aka Gamma Virginis. Saturn is currently moving eastward away from the star. Saturn's June Path Though Saturn's distance from the Earth is increasing, Saturn's rings are opening, revealing more and more of their northern face and reflecting more light. This lessens the planet's dimming process as it journeys farther from Earth. The planet's ring tilt is 8º by mid-July and widens to 15º in December. Generate images of Saturn's ring tilt as seen from Earth with the Solar System Simulator. With a 6- or 8-inch telescope you just may be able to see Saturn's 5 brightest moons. NASA's Cassini Mission to Saturn
Arcturus is the bright golden star overhead at sunset. Use the handle of the Big Dipper to arc to Arcturus from there spike down to blue-white Spica in the south. Helpful Image From 9:30pm to midnight look southwest for bluish Spica about 15º (degrees) to the left of yellowish Saturn, both below bright golden Arcturus. A large isosceles triangle is formed by these 3 colorful celestial bodies with Arcturus as the apex, tipped toward the north. The westward movement of Arcturus and the Big Dipper can be observed until 2:30am. Big Dipper Navigation Notice the seasonal position of the Big Dipper's bowl.
Scorpius the cosmic scorpion, a sprawling j-shaped constellation, is seen in the southeast at sunset. Antares is the red heart star of Scorpius. Track Bunny's Footprints in Scorpius throughout the year! It's a summer constellation that's on the rise!
The Summer Triangle a stellar right triangle is high in the northeast at sunset. Vega is the brightest star and western point; Deneb the dimmest star and eastern point, Altair is the southern point. Hercules the Strong Man lies about a third of the way from bright white Vega to golden Arcturus in the northwest. Look for his four star wedge-shaped torso. Star Chart
The Milky Way appears like a faint cloud extending from Scorpius on the southern horizon, to the Summer Triangle high overhead, and onward toward Cassiopeia (M or W shaped) on the northern horizon. Star Map.