The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
Summer begins in the earth’s northern hemisphere at 10:04 p.m., P.D.T. on June 20, the summer solstice. The solstice happens at the moment when the sun, in its apparent annual path around the sky, reaches its farthest point north of the celestial equator. On this date, the sun rises as far north of east–and sets as far north of west–as it will during the year, and this is the longest day in the northern hemisphere. At the same moment, winter begins in the earth’s southern hemisphere. Summer ends on September 22 at the autumnal equinox.
The brightest planet, Venus, continues to become more prominent in the west-northwest sky after sunset. Thirty minutes after sunset, it will also guide you to the innermost planet Mercury. Starting then, use binoculars to find Mercury within the same field of view and to the lower left of Venus.
The ringed planet Saturn is high in the southern sky in late evening twilight, slightly outshining and to the left of Virgo the Maiden’s brightest star, Spica. Saturn and its spectacular system of rings are currently featured through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes. The waxing gibbous moon appears to the lower left of Saturn on Wednesday the 19th.
The planet Mars, in Taurus the Bull, may be found through binoculars, 5 degrees high in the east-northeast 30 minutes before sunrise starting on the 19th. This is the beginning of a period of visibility, or apparition, that will reach its climax with the planet’s relatively close approach to earth in early April next year.
The phase of the moon changes from waxing gibbous to full at 4:32 a.m. on Sunday the 23rd. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the traditional name for the full moon in June is the Strawberry Moon. Fifteen minutes before the precise time of the full moon, the moon will be at its perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit to us. It is also the closest perigee of the year, 221,824 miles distant. As a result, the moon’s size is about 7 percent larger than average. Remember that your best chances for spectacular full-moon pictures with a foreground horizon begin at sunset on Friday, and at sunrise on Sunday. For the remainder of the week, the moon will appear in waning gibbous phase.
The International Space Station makes two evening passes that are easily visible from Los Angeles this week. On Friday, June 21, the ISS will move from the north west horizon at 10:19 p.m. to a point 54 degrees high in the northeast three minutes later, where it will fade into earth’s shadow. On the following Saturday night, the ISS will rise in the northwest at 9:29 p.m., reach its apex 53 degrees high in the northeast at 9:33 p.m., and fade into earth’s shadow while still 31 degrees high in the east-southeast at 9:34 p.m.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night, are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes Tuesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next 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 15.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com.