Celestial events in the skies for the week of June 13-19, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The week we celebrate the two women who pioneered spaceflight—Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova and America’s Sally Ride. Skyward, the night is in transition as Spring constellations are setting and the Summer stars are beginning to appear. And don’t forget about Jupiter blazing high overhead and glorious Saturn rising above the eastern horizon.
Tuesday, June 13
Arcturus is the bright orange star directly overhead at dark, the bottom of Boötes the Herdsman. This constellation looks like a huge kite, or ice cream cone, and is one of the most ancient constellations, dating back to the early Sumerian stargazers 4,000 years ago. And orange Arcturus is 36 Light Years away, a giant star, filling the orbit of Venus if place in our Solar System.
Wednesday, June 14
As darkness grips the late Spring landscape by 10 pm, Leo the Lion is dipping down toward the western horizon, soon to be gone by midnight. Once heralding the end of our long Winter, the familiar outline of backward question mark for its head and right triangle for its hindquarters is diving toward the western horizon, a sure sign that Summer is on its way.
Thursday, June 15
Looking south are the scales of Libra, an indistinct small group of stars that garners attention with the famous planet’s presence. And there is an easier to see, lopsided square of stars that represent Corvus the Crow. To the east are the claws of Scorpius, on the border of the Milky Way. As the night wears on, the planet Saturn will be low in the southeast between Scorpius and Sagittarius.
Friday, June 16
On this 1963 date in space history, Valentine Tereshkova, 80, became the first woman to be launched into space aboard her spaceship Vostok 6. She is still the only female to fly solo in space—probably never to be duplicated. Tereshkova is Russian national hero, having been appointed to political posts and part of the public ceremonies like the torch ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
Saturday, June 17
The Last Quarter Moon is today, and our celestial neighbor rises at 1 am EDT to begin its trek this week across the morning skies. Often ignored by backyard telescope because of the middle of the night observing time, this western side of the Moon is dominated by the huge ancient lava sea called the Oceanus Procellarum, or the Sea of Storms.
Sunday, June 18
On this 1983 date in space history, Sally Ride became the first American female in space as was rocketed off Earth with four men aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. It was the seventh Shuttle flight, and Challenger’s second. Ride made a second flight before becoming a NASA ambassador. She died in 2012 of pancreatic cancer at age 61. Her maiden voyage at age 32 still makes her the youngest American to orbit Earth.
Monday, June 19
Jupiter still dominates the night, high overhead in the constellation Virgo with the white star Spica below to the left. And visible in the east after 9 pm red Antares, the heart of Scorpius, with planet Saturn behind.