June 2020 Astronomy Report
June is a time for major changes, as the June Solstice arrives to bring a major adjustments to the the weather. Mercury puts on it's best show this month, and the Moon and Sun get to play ring around the rosie this month! And a comet that would have put on a great show has fallen apart.
On the Earth
Unfortunately there are no major meteor showers in the month of June. The Beta Taurids occur this month but are considered to be a daytime shower because their peak occurs after sunrise. The Arietids are the same, they also occur mostly in the daytime and are practically invisible to visual observations. The daytime showers are mostly observed using radar, but a couple of streaks can be spotted in the dusk and dawn hours.
Big changes in store for the weather on our planet this month, as the June solstice occurs on the 20th. In the northern hemisphere this marks the start of summer and the return of warmer temperatures. On the flip side, the southern hemisphere will experience the start of winter, bringing colder temps and frozen precipitation. This is also the longest day of the year for those in the north and the longest night for the southern hemisphere. After the solstice the trend begin to reverse.
In the Solar System
The full moon this year occurs on June 5th, and coincidentally a lunar eclipse occurs on the same night. Don't expect the moon to turn blood red during this time though, because this lunar eclipse is of the penumbral type. The penumbra is the outer area of the Earth's shadow which is not as dark as the inner, or umbral, shadow. The moon will only slightly darken, but it should still be noticeable change. Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia will be able to see, North and South America will unfortunately miss out.
Remember comet Atlas? It came very close to the Sun last month during it's perihelion passage and was forecast to put on a good show. Unfortunately the comet just couldn't take the heat and pressure! Atlas fractured and split into several fragments, which actually occurs frequently to comets that have never felt the heat of the Sun. Another comet, called Swan, also swung by the Sun recently, but it also failed to live up to expectations. We get another chance though, as a newly discovered comet called Neowise is heading our way! It will have it's turn in the spotlight in July.
Venus has moved out of sight for now, as it entered it's inferior conjunction with the Sun. When it returns later it will become the morning star for a while and will reach elongation again in August. But Mercury is prime for viewing right now, because it will reach it's greatest elongation on June 4th, meaning it will be the farthest from the Sun in the sky on that date and easy to pull out of the glow of dusk. Being very small and far away it does not show much detail under telescopic observation, but it does exhibit phases much like Venus that change depending on where it is in it's orbit.
Ready for a solar eclipse? Those in Africa, Saudi Arabia and parts of India and China will get to see an annular solar eclipse on the 21st of June. The annular eclipse gets it's name from the term annulus which means ring. Sometimes when the Moon crosses the Sun, it's a little too far away to cover the entire disk of the Sun. Instead we see the Sun become a bright ring with a dark interior. Unlike a total solar eclipse that is safe to view with the naked at totality, the Sun is never safe to view during an annular eclipse without some sort of filtration. Even with most of the Sun blocked by the Moon, it still produces far more IR and UV radiation than is needed to damage the human eye. Use safe, name brand eclipse glasses of reputable quality to view the eclipse directly, or a telescope with a good solar filter to observe up close. Never view the Sun telescopically without a filter, IT WILL DESTROY YOUR EYES!
In the Milky Way and Beyond
Go out after midnight this month to see the rising of the Milky Way! Throughout the month this beautiful band of life will rise earlier and earlier before asserting it's dominance of the summer skies in the northern hemisphere. The Milky Way is a treasure trove of incredible deep sky objects to see with a telescope, including many nebulae and star clusters. Next month will we go over some of the most prominent objects to see, plus discuss how you can take a photo of our home galaxy!
First Quarter: May 29
Full: June 5
Third Quarter: June 12
New: June 21