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What's Up in SW FL Skies: June Planets Line Up for Solstice

Moon Phases June 2024 (EDT)

New 1stQuarter Full 3rd Quarter

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As we saw in May, the planets have been lining up in the predawn sky lately, and that continues into the start of June. Around 6 a.m., if it's not too cloudy to your East, there are six planets strung along the ecliptic from low in the ENE to medium-high in the SE. In order of increasing elongation from the Sun, they are Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus (not naked-eye visible), Mars, Neptune (not naked-eye visible), and Saturn. Who's missing? Why, Venus is hiding out on the far side of the Sun at the start of June -- but Venus will be joining us as an early evening planet by July 7th.

This is the morning lineup on June 4th: Saturn at upper right. Jupiter and Mercury at lower left...

...and Mars in the middle, with a super-thin waning crescent Moon about to go through "new" phase and re-emerge as an early evening waxing crescent just a few days later. Venus is actually exactly behind the Sun on June 4th, called "superior conjunction." Jupiter's visibility continues to improve throughout the month - it will rise a few minutes earlier each day, so it will be higher and more noticeable in your predawn sky.

June is a slack month for meteors, the next really major shower is the Perseids in August (OK, we may see some Southern Delta Aquarids in July - more on that next month). Still, in the wee hours the so-called "sporadic background rate" -- random meteors or leftovers from extinct showers can yield up to seven meteors per hour, some of which are wicked fast. And always keep a look out for the occasional fireball, those are pretty unpredictable!

The June Solstice, or "Summer Solstice" in the Northern Hemisphere, will be Thursday, Jun 20, 2024, at 4:50 p.m. The night before that, at 7 pm, we will have a wonderful planetarium premiere, the latest show from the California Academy of Sciences, called "Spark: The Universe in Us." Click on the Planetarium Premiere link to get your tickets to this special event!

This month on odd-numbered days we are showing Mars, The Ultimate Voyage (and on weekends we have some Mars activities for the planetarium lobby, just ask!) at 12:15, followed by The Dark Side of Light at 2:15. On even-numbered days, we explore asteroids, meteorites and comets at 12:15 but then go Forward to the Moon at 2:15! On Sundays at 3:15 we have a Science Sunday extra show, which is chosen in accord with the preferences of the audience.

This month's First Thursday meetings (7 pm, June 6th): SW FL Astronomical Society meeting will be held in the main museum building, as the planetarium will be used for a special speaker event sponsored by the Herpetological Society.

The whole nature center and planetarium complex is open six days per week, closed Mondays. Hoping to see you soon at the Center! -- Heather Preston, Planetarium Director

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