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The Night Sky Tonight: June 15 – June 23

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 15
Capricornus is a Sea Goat. Really! The ancients had vivid imaginations. Bounded by Aquarius (1), Pisces Austrinus (2), Microscopium (3), Sagittarius (4) and Aquila (5), Capricornus is average in area, ranking 40th among the constellations, and contains one Messier Catalog object, M73, which is actually a double star. Its alpha (A) star is Algedi, a magnitude 3.56 binary star of 8.7 solar radii, 107 light years from us. Algedi is actually the third brightest star in Capricornus, behind beta and delta, the two other bright stars at the top of the ?smile? shape. Of course, the visitor Mars is currently the brightest object in Capricornus.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars

Tomorrow Evening: The Moon, M44 and Venus

Saturday, June 16
Tonight is great both for imaging and visual observation of a fine trio. The Moon, Beehive Cluster (M44) and Venus line up in the constellation Cancer, just east of Pollux and Castor in Gemini. The Moon is just 3.37 days old, small enough to allow binocular views of M44 five degrees away. Can you get them both in one field of view? Venus is three degrees from M44, easily in one binocular field of view. Imagers, can you bring out M44 between these two bright objects?

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarMax 90mm Mak-Cass Telescope and Tripod Bundle, Orion StarSeeker IV 127mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Saturn Nebula

Sunday, June 17
One of the premier deep sky targets in Capricornus is the famous Saturn Nebula, NGC 7009. With a bright magnitude of 8.3 and large disk of 58 arc-seconds, it is easy to notice in almost any telescopic view. It also has an easy to find location, just above the constellation?s ?smile? asterism. This planetary nebula is typical, being relatively close at 1400 light years, and tend to fade quickly as their gas bubble expands and dissipates. Note the ansae, or ?ears? on this object, giving it a Saturn-like appearance.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope, Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Moon Targets


Monday, June 18
Tonight?s 5 day old waxing crescent Moon gives us some great sights. Here is a sampling with minimum apertures: Naked-Eye: (1) Theophilus 30 mm: (2) Posidonius 100 mm: (3) Rima Burg 150 mm: (4) Rima Posidonius The area in and around Posidonius is very rich, and worth exploring not only the great crater, but the rimae inside it, and nearby. Theophilus being adjacent to the Terminator should provide dramatic views.


Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion Observer 80ST 80mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Venus and the Beehive

Tuesday, June 19
Venus and the Beehive Cluster (M44) are together tonight as darkness falls. With 45 arc-minutes separation between Venus and the center of M44, the planet will appear ?inside? the cluster, as viewed in binoculars or telescopes. Two challenges will be the low elevation, only 16-1/2 degrees above the horizon, and a First Quarter Moon 45 degrees east in Virgo. This is still a fun ?catch? if you can do it. Notice Mercury on the horizon? Can you use the two stars above, Castor and Pollux, to find it?

Skill Level: Intermediate

Suggested Gear: Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope, Orion StarMax 90mm TableTop Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Summer Solstice First Quarter Moon Targets


Wednesday, June 20
Summer arrives today! Let?s look at some top lunar targets and celebrate tonight. The Alpine Valley (3) can give views of a rectilinear rille on its floor. Aristillus (2) and its neighbor Autolycus are right on the Terminator. Look for the K shape of Rimae Triesnecker (5) next to its namesake crater.

Naked-Eye: (1) Albategnius 30 mm: (2) Aristillus 50 mm: (3) Vallis Alpes 100 mm: (4) Rima Hadley 150 mm: (5) Rimae Triesnecker


Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion 10x50 E-Series Waterproof Astronomy Binoculars, Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Morning: Binocular Double Star in Capricornus

Thursday, June 21
11 (Rho) Capricorni is a treat in binoculars. This is a quintuple star system, easily located near Mars and the constellation?s alpha (A) star. A wide separation of the A and D members of 259 arc-seconds make this an easy binocular catch. Magnitudes of the two stars are 4.97 and 6.88, and their P.A. is 150. You should find the yellow and purple colors of the stars pleasing.

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion Scenix 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars, Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Venus and Moon High

Friday, June 22
Get yourself out this evening for some easy views of the planets, and alignments. The Moon and Venus are at their high points, the Moon for this month, Venus for this evening cycle. Additionally, the Moon sits close to alpha Virginis, Spica (2), Jupiter next to alpha Librae, Zubenelgenubi (1), Venus is centered in the constellation Cancer, Mercury just above the horizon near Pollux (4) and Castor (5) in Gemini, and alpha Leonis, Regulus (3) between then all. Spica, Zubenelgenubi and Regulus are double stars, can you split them in your telescope?

Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope, Orion StarMax 127mm Equatorial Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

Tomorrow Evening: Moon and Jupiter


Saturday, June 23
Jupiter, east of the Moon will show Io shortly popping off the disk and the Great Red Spot approaching the trailing edge. Lunar targets tonight include:

10X binoculars: (1) Clavius, with its five interior craters in an arc by size 50 mm: (2) Copernicus, a young feature with bright rays, central mountains and steep slopes 100 mm: (3) Stadius T, the fascinating chain of craterlets between Copernicus and Eratosthenes 200 mm: (4) Rima Hesiodus, the 180 mile long rectilinear rille, crossing formations and supporting craterless


Skill Level: Beginner

Suggested Gear: Orion SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope, Orion Resolux 10x50 Waterproof Astronomy Binoculars

Tomorrow Morning: Mars Growing Larger

Charts from Starry Night Pro, available from Orion Telescopes & Binoculars. Saturn Nebula sketch by Jeremy Perez. Rho Capricorini sketch courtesy Webb Society. Lunar images courtesy Robert Reeves. Other images from 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.