What's Up in
SW Florida Skies
Moon Phases June 2023 (Eastern Time Zone)
03 10 17 26
Full Moon 3Q New 1Q
Planets: Venus Turns the Corner, Still "Crazy Bright" Through June
At the start of June, crazy-bright Venus is high in the west after sunset. In fact, On June 4 Venus will reach its "greatest eastern elongation." This means the planet will be at its greatest apparent distance from the Sun in the evening sky, so it's the best time for observers to see the planet... although in truth, you can't miss it, it's too bright! Venus is the brightest star-lookalike object in the night sky (except it doesn't twinkle - stars do) and it will be well above your western horizon after sunset all month long, even as sunset gets later and later. It's also moving along with the Sun and Mercury against the background stars, so it will be zooming from Gemini through Cancer (getting closer to, but never overtaking Mars in our sky) and getting brighter and brighter even as it returns toward the Sun in our sky throughout the month. In fact, Venus will keep getting ever brighter in our evening skies until mid-July!
Mars starts out the month in Cancer, above and to the "left" of Venus as you look West-SouthWest (WSW), and of course it has that butterscotch orange color. Mars will continue to look dimmer over time to us, as Earth leaves Mars farther behind due to our faster orbit, but Venus will creep right up to it before, in late June, the second planet seems to turn back toward the Sun, leaving Mars to head toward the brightest star in Leo: Regulus. That means Mars will be leaving Cancer behind as it appears to enter the constellation Leo by late June.
Saturn is visible high in the SE to S-SE before dawn, as a steady-glowing cream-colored point of light, and climbs higher/farther West as the month progresses.
Jupiter is lower than Saturn, but a nice predawn planet from low to midway up in the E-SE to SE all month long.
Mercury graces the predawn planets at the start of June, shining below Jupiter in the predawn eastern sky (try 5:45 to 6 am). At the start of the month, it's pretty close to Jupiter. As the month progresses, it gets closer to the Sun in our sky and also brighter. By the middle of June, Jupiter is higher and Mercury gets lower and lower to the predawn horizon, so for best viewing, catch it early in June!
Events in Earth's Skies
Although Venus reaches its greatest separation from the Sun in our sky on June 4th and the Sun rises and sets as far north as it gets on June 21st (the Summer Solstice, or June solstice for people who are not northern-hemisphere-centric!), there isn't all that much "unusual" happening in the sky for naked-eye observers this June. No great meteor showers; the only comet is too dim to see without a good telescope; and nothing else unusual. Just pretty skies and the return of Scorpius and Sagittarius (and the Milky Way's galactic center) to our midnight skies!
If you get a clear evening, you can try to catch sight of the Southern Cross around 9:10 pm (that's on June 1st: move 4 minutes earlier each subsequent night) by staring straight SOUTH off the beach at Sanibel or 30 degrees to the left of the end of the line of the supports for the FMB pier, right at the south point on your horizon - which should be nothing but ocean in that direction. It has to be a clear night: or at least clear to the horizon when looking south, and it has to be dark enough to see the stars. The bottom star of the Southern Cross will not stay up for too long (it will start to disappear in the ocean haze about 30 minutes after its maximum height), and remember to adjust your viewing time for how many days past June 1st it is! This is actually easier to see in May, but worth a shot in early June :-)
Look in the NNE just after dark to see that the Big Dipper is upside-down just after sunset. Look ENE after 11 pm and you will see the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle (Vega, Deneb and Altair) rising! Each day after, each of these two asterisms is a little farther west at the same time each night: the stars change at the rate of 4 minutes of solar time each night, so if a star rises at 11 pm tonight, it will rise at 10:56 pm the next night. This is all due to the Earth going around the Sun in our orbit - the direction in space to "midnight" (directly away from the Sun) changes by almost 1 degree per day as we orbit.
Leo is high in the WSW sky at the start of the night at this time of year... lower in the west as the month goes on. Look for a "backwards question mark" followed by a triangle (the lion faces westward, it's looking toward Gemini). Late this month, the reddish-orange planet Mars will be drawing closer and closer to the bright star Regulus at the base of that "backwards question mark." On July 2, the three bright objects: Regulus, Mars and Venus, will be spaced out evenly in a line well above the western horizon after sunset. See below: something to look forward to!
At the Planetarium
This month, our planetarium show lineup features Sun, Moon, Stars and Galaxies. Our planetarium shows usually have descriptions posted in our calendar. Just click on the individual items for the relevant day in our Calendar to see a full description of the shows or events for that day. You get a "being there" full-surround video and audio experience with all of our shows.
Our special planetarium premiere for the evening of Wednesday, June 21 is "5000 Eyes: Mapping the Universe with DESI" from the University of Colorado at Boulder. This will also include a June Solstice talk - since that's also the Solstice. Tickets are available by clicking on the link in the premiere page, here.
We show four different planetarium shows, two on odd-numbered days and the other two on even-numbered days, so that visitors can attend planetarium shows at 12:15 pm and at 2:15 pm two days in a row and never see the same shows twice. We do a morning "sensory Sunday" show each month, usually on the first Sunday, for people with sensory challenges who want a kid-appropriate show with low volume and a bit more lighting in the planetarium (but please reserve your spot ahead of time for these as they can fill up). We also have at least one special planetarium evening show at 7 pm (sometimes with a talk, too) per month. These are fun and educational and usually related to what is going on that month in our SW Florida skies. Other times we may cover some cool topics in-depth. Sundays have an extra planetarium show with a science discovery emphasis at 3:30 pm.
The planetarium is presenting mask-optional (because you are indoors with other people for about 45 minutes, you might want one, but it's up to you), planetarium shows 6 days/week at 12:15 pm and at 2:15 pm (plus an "extra show" at 3:30 pm on Sundays). Please check our Calendar for details. To ensure getting a seat (or the seat you want), please arrive fifteen minutes before the scheduled show time (in "season" especially). We do have two hand sanitizer stations in the lobby, and we thank you for helping us keep everyone safe by distancing, wearing your masks if you have reason to throughout the show and using the sanitizer upon entry. Thank you!
Our friends at the SW Florida Astronomical Society's regular first-Thursday "Meetings with Speaker Series" are hybrid live and Zoom meetings for now (Zoom portion needs to be arranged in advance, see their website for contact info and updates: www.theEyepiece.org ). Some of the members are discovering that being able to attend SWFAS from anywhere in the world is actually pretty convenient!
To get a printable (black on white, saves ink) map of the night sky (note: N-S-E-W directions will only make sense if you hold the map overhead to look at it), visit the free download site of the AWESOME skymaps.com.
To spot the International Space Station moving through your sky, try NASA's Spot The Station website! Or to add in the Hubble and various other bright satellites, you can try Sky & Telescope's Tracker page. Or Satflare, of course.
Visit the Planetarium for updates on all of our space-related wonders! You can even rent the planetarium, for your own space-themed party, wedding, memorial service, meeting, meditation session, or other cosmic event. If you have guests who are immunocompromised, please don't forget the masks, though, whether regular or space-themed.
Hope to see you soon at the Center,
– Heather Preston, Planetarium Director