Muskegon, Muskegon County's online magazine

Pictured is Altair, a well-known member of the Summer Triangle, clearly visible in the summer night sky across the United States. Image: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Steve Golden.

Clear Skies Contain Wonderful Sights for Sky Watchers


This month, the nights are short and darkness comes late, but clear skies are frequent and contain many wonderful delights for sky watchers.

As the month begins, a trio of planets is visible after sunset. The planet Venus is the lowest and western most of the three. Look for Venus as a very bright white “star” in the northwest near the twin stars Castor and Pollux of Gemini the Twins. The waxing crescent moon is very near Venus the nights of June 15 and 16.

In the southern sky and less brilliant is the planet Jupiter. Look for a bright yellow “star” shining among the stars of Libra, just to the west of Scorpius the Scorpion. The waxing gibbous moon is very close to Jupiter the nights of June 22 through the 24.

June is this year’s best month to observe Saturn, as Earth is closest to Saturn. The planet is visible rising in the southeast about an hour after sunset. The Full moon is very close to Saturn on the nights of June 26 through the 28.

The planet Mars begins rising in the southeast around midnight local time. Look for a fairly bright orange-red “star.” In two months Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been since 2003. The waning gibbous moon is very close to Mars the nights of June 2 through the 4.

The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Incoming!” Tuesday, June 5 and Thursday, June 7 at 7:00 p.m., the last planetarium shows this season! Tag along with robot explorers zooming past rocky asteroids and icy comets, all the way to Pluto, and discover how asteroids and comets have collided with our planet throughout history, changing the course of life on Earth. Narrated by George Takei, this 2016 program gives audiences a closer look at the scientific advances that may allow us to find and track cosmic threats before they reach planet Earth. The program will be followed by a brief tour of the current night sky, using the planetarium.

As darkness falls after sunset this month, high in the northwest, locate the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. Low on the northern horizon; find a “W” forming the stars of Cassiopeia. High in the western sky nearly overhead, locate Arcturus of Bootes, the brightest star of summer.

Low in the south southwest, just west of the bright blue star Spica, look for a trapezoid-shaped pattern of stars forming Corvus the Crow. Rising in the Eastern sky locate three bright stars all blue or white in color, forming the “Summer Triangle.” Low and to the northeast is Deneb, of Cygnus the Swan. Higher in the east is Vega, of Lyra the Harp. Furthest south of the trio is Altair, of Aquila the Eagle.

By dawn the “Summer Triangle” can be found high overhead. As dawn twilight begins, look low in the northeast to locate the bright yellow star Capella, one of the brightest stars of winter.

The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Incoming!” Tuesdays, June 5 and Thursday, June 7, at 7:00 p.m. Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience the all-new Carr-Fles Planetarium, featuring state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.

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