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The Night Sky Tonight: June 11 – June 24

By Mark Wagner

Mark Wagner brings us highlights of what's happening in the sky each night this week. Click on each image to enlarge the view. Happy gazing!

Friday, June 11
Try some solar system naked-eye treat after sunset tonight. The Moon and Venus form a lovely close pair two degrees apart over the north northwestern horizon under Gemini's twins of Pollux and Castor. The Moon is a thin crescent under two days after New. Venus shines brightly at magnitude -3.91 in gibbous phase, 94% illuminated. If you have a camera and steady hand or tripod and capture this scene, post your shots here!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Tritech II Field Tripod with Fluid Pan Head, Orion Scenix 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars

Tomorrow Morning: NGC 7331 in Pegasus.

Saturday, June 12
NGC 7331 in Pegasus is an excellent bright galaxy for moderate size amateur telescopes. Bright at magnitude 9.5 and 10.5x3.7 arc-minutes size, this tilted spiral galaxy is a showpiece. Locate it easily using the stars (M) Mu, (L) Lambda and (E) Eta Pegasi to point a little over half their separation to be in the neighborhood. Images of this galaxy show its faint neighbors, which comprise the Deer Lick Group, with the famous interacting Stephen's Quintet only 30 arc-minutes to its south.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarSeeker IV 80mm GoTo Refractor without Controller, Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector without Controller

Tomorrow Morning: Crescent Moon Targets.

Sunday, June 13
This evening's waxing crescent Moon is at 3.73 days and 12.9% illuminated. With your 10X Binoculars look at 65 mile diameter (1) Crater Scott near the south pole. Can you see its flat floor and high walls? In a 50mm (2) Crater Atlas is a favorite, 53 miles diameter and on the Terminator showing very steep slopes and walls with terraces. Interesting (3) Crater Messier in 100mm is good with an elongated 7x5 mile diameter, coupled with Messier A and an unusual single ray to the west. 200mm shows (4) Rima Atlas, a fine 83 mile long Y shape in the crater's arena.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Binocular Double Star 3 Pegasi.

Monday, June 14
Get your 50mm binoculars out this morning and try splitting the binary star 3 Pegasi. Its components are magnitudes 6.18 and 7.50 with separation of 39.3 arc-seconds. Look for (E) Epsilon Pegasi above Jupiter to begin your binocular scan. The inset star pattern will guide you from there. This gravitational pair is 286 light years distant and discovered in 1782. Can you split it?

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 2x54 Ultra Wide Angle Binoculars, Orion DeepMap 600 Folding Star Chart

Tomorrow Evening: More Moon Targets.

Tuesday, June 15
Tonight's Moon is a 5.73 day old 29.4% illuminated waxing crescent. Your 10X Binoculars will show (1) Rupes Altai, an arcing cliff running north-south for 291 miles. With 50mm (2) Sinus Honoris will show internal crest, Rimae Sosigenes and Rimae Maclear. (3) Crater Sosigenes in 100mm shows a lava filled flat floor in its 11 mile diameter, and using 300mm (4) Rimae Sosigenes with Rima Maclear running north-south with crossing craterlets.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 10x50 WA Binoculars, Orion Apex 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Tight Double Star 33 Pegasi.

Wednesday, June 16
Located conveniently off the line between the pair (M) Mu and (L) Lambda, and 9 Pegasi, the tight binary pair 33 Pegasi provides an excellent challenge if you enjoy splitting tight doubles. With only 1.1 seconds of arc separation you'll need steady skies to break apart the magnitude 6.18 and 9.18 components ? 3 magnitudes delta, a true challenge. Look for the highlighted five star asterism shown to the right in the inset to confirm your field of view, then give it a try!

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 150mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Optical Tube, Orion 180mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Optical Tube

Tomorrow Morning: 1st Quarter Moon.

Thursday, June 17
Tonight's 1st Quarter Moon is at 7.73 days and 50.3% illuminated. A 10X Binocular is great for scanning rugged (1) Montes Apenninus, rimming the eastern shores of Mare Imbrium. (2) Crater Archimedes 50 mile diameter includes high walls with terraces, flat lava filled floor with craterlets, in 50mm instruments. Famous Vallis Alpes is a massive fault with cliffs on each side, viewed with 100mm instruments. Use 200mm on spectacular (4) Rima Hadley at the foot of Montes Appeninus.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope, Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Globular Cluster M15.

Friday, June 18
A quick star hop to a great object in any telescope can begin this morning at Jupiter over the south southwest horizon. Look up from the planet to find (E) Enif shining at magnitude 2.37 and dimmer (T) Theta Pegasi. The two create a pointer, half the distance between them up to Messier M15 (M15). This highly condensed globular cluster has an apparent size of 18 arc-minutes at a distance of approximately 33,000 light years. The black hole at its center is responsible for core collapse, contributing to its condensed appearance.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion DeepMap 600 Folding Star Chart, Black 9x50 Orion Achromatic Finder Scope

Tomorrow Evening: Gibbous Moon Features.

Saturday, June 19
The waxing gibbous Moon is 9.74 days old tonight and 72.3% illuminated at perigee. A 10X Binocular shows 88 mile diameter (1) Crater Longomontanus' steep slopes, damaged walls, large flat floor with mountains and white spots. In 50mm famous (2) Crater Copernicus is spectacular, hexagonally shaped, young, surrounded by bright rays, steep terraced walls inside its 56 mile diameter with three mountains in the arena. A 100mm will give views of volcanic (3) Dome Kies Pi with (4) Rima Hippalus' three large gashes just west, visible in 200mm instruments.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarSeeker IV 80mm GoTo Refractor without Controller, Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector without Controller

Tomorrow Morning: Summer Solstice.

Sunday, June 20
Today is the June Solstice. Northern hemisphere humans call it the Summer Solstice, but to southern hemisphere residents, it is a misnomer. The sun shines today at its farthest point north on Earth, the Tropic of Cancer. Mark this spot on your local horizon and watch the Sun moving southward toward winter, incrementally day after day. Our next time demarcation will be an Equinox, arriving in September, when the Sun shines perpendicularly over the Equator.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Suggested Gear: Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion Grab-n-Go 80mm Triplet Refractor Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Carbon Star

Monday, June 21
SS Virginis is an excellent carbon star in an easy location along the constellation figure of Virgo. Locate (E) Eta Virginis in your finderscope and you're in the area. This red star has an almost one year period, rising and falling over 361 days. Its midpoint this year fell on May 15, so it has begun rising from its dimmest and reddest magnitude 9.6 on its way back to 6.0. This red beacon shines from approximately 2300 light years, classified as a Mira type variable, and is semi-regular over decades with its maximum varying to magnitude 7.4.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion CC6 6" Classical Cassegrain Telescope, Orion CC8 8" f/12 Classical Cassegrain Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Quick Dawn Challenge.

Tuesday, June 22
Head outside before sunrise this morning and look for the waning crescent Moon over the north northeastern horizon. Two days before New, it is a thin sliver under three degrees altitude. Just to its north at five and a half degrees altitude is the Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters (also Suburu). Can you find it without optical aid, or is it visible in binoculars?

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Mini Giant 15x63 Astronomy Binoculars, Orion Resolux 15x70 Waterproof Astronomy Binoculars

Tomorrow Evening: Double Star Porrima.

Wednesday, June 23
Porrima (Gamma Virginis) is an excellent double star for any telescope. Currently the near equal components are separated by 2.93 seconds of arc, both yellow-white at magnitudes 3.48 and 3.53. This double is a binary pair and close-by neighbor of ours at only 38 light years distance. Those who have been watching Porrima over the past decade or longer will recall it as a very tight double, only 0.44 arc-seconds separation in 2005. The pair is currently widening and will be nearly 4 arc-seconds separation by the end of this decade.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarSeeker IV 80mm GoTo Refractor without Controller, Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector without Controller

Tomorrow Morning: Constellation Pegasus.

Thursday, June 24
Pegasus, the Winged Horse of Greek mythology, dates far back as the Babylonian constellation Iku. It was also among the 48 constellations of 2nd Century A.D. Greek astronomy Ptolemy, and remains part of the current 88 constellations. Pegasus' (A) Alpha star is magnitude 2.48 Markab, and bordering constellations include (1) Cygnus, (2) Lacerta, (3) Andromeda, (4) Pisces, (5) Aquarius, (6) Equuleus, (7) Delphinus, and (8) Sagitta. We will visit some of Pegasus' doubles stars, planetary nebulae and galaxies over the next few weeks.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Star Target Planisphere, 30-50 degree, Orion DualBeam 2600mAH LED Waterproof Astro Lantern

Tomorrow Evening: Venus And Moon.

Charts from Starry Night Pro. Markarian's Chain and Porrima sketches courtesy Jeremy Perez. Eclipse image from NASA. Lunar images from Robert Reeves, NASA LRO, Virtual Moon Atlas and Starry Night Pro.

Mark Wagner is a lifelong astronomy enthusiast and deep sky observer in the San Francisco bay area. Visit our Facebook Page if you'd like to post comments, questions, sketches or images you've taken to our Night Sky Tonight post.