Weekly Sky Report
The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through June 20, 2018. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The phase of the moon waxes from new on the 13th to first quarter on the 20th. The moon may first be visible in the evening sky on Thursday the 14th when it will be very close to the west-northwest horizon. Look at about 8:30 p.m., at which time the sky should be dark enough to see the slender crescent. On following nights, the moon becomes higher and easier to see, and it sets later. On the 20th, it sets at 1:09 a.m.
The moon joins two other brilliant objects that are visible in the sky during the early evening. Venus, the brightest planet, is the blazing object visible in the northwest sky. Jupiter is slightly fainter than Venus, and it appears high above the southeast horizon.
The moon will appear to the lower right of Venus on the 15th, and to the upper left of the planet on the following night. Venus can be seen until 10:42 p.m., when it sets. On the 19th, the moon is at the mid-way point between Venus and Jupiter.
By midnight, after Jupiter has moved into the southwest sky, orange Mars–now almost as bright as Jupiter–gleams above the southeast horizon, while the fainter, pale-yellow planet Saturn appears to the upper right of Mars. Carried westward through the sky by the rotation of the Earth, Saturn, in the constellation Sagittarius the Archer, crosses the meridian in the south where it reaches its highest at about 1:45 a.m. Mars, in Capricornus the Sea Goat, trails after Saturn by a little over two hours, and it is highest in the south at about 4:00 a.m.
The moon and planets have details that are fascinating to examine through backyard telescopes. The cratered face of the moon has the most detail. Night after night, different lunar features are brought into view as the sun rises on them. The white, cloud-shrouded face of Venus currently shows a gibbous phase, recalling the illumination of the moon a few days before full. Jupiter’s banded clouds and storms, including its colorful Great Red Spot, parade quickly across the planet, which completes a full rotation in less than ten hours. Saturn displays its beautiful rings. Mars has dusky markings visible across its amber disk, and white polar caps. Currently, large Martian dust storms are growing and are shrouding some of its prominent features.
There will be a series of opportunities to see the Hubble Space Telescope in the early evenings between the 13th and 16th. Each of these appearances is similar to the next, except for the time; each appearance happens about 10 minutes earlier than on the night before. At every appearance, the Hubble Space Telescope will first become visible as it moves up from the west-southwest horizon. Other than its motion, it resembles a moving star and is about as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper. Three minutes later it is highest in the sky, about 37 degrees above the southern horizon. A few seconds later, as it seems to approach Jupiter, it vanishes into the shadow of the Earth. It is highest in the sky, and just to the right of Jupiter, at 9:56 p.m. on the 13th, 9:46 p.m. on the 14th, 9:36 p.m. on the 15th, and at 9:25 p.m. on the 16th. The Hubble Space Telescope orbits 335 miles above the Earth, and it will be 520 miles from Los Angeles each time that it appears at its highest.
Free views of the Sun during the day and of the moon and planets at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, June 23rd.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at email@example.com.