Celestial events in the skies for the week of June 20-26, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
With daylight lasting nearly 16 hours, there’s not much time for stargazing, but hanging out under the stars after 10 pm has its rewards of two planets and a handful of bright stars. And the Milky Way climbs higher as the night wear on, its border full of deep sky objects for sky hunters and their telescopes. One of the real pleasures of Summer stargazing is the sounds you hear while looking around the night sky. From the incessant chants of insects, to dogs parking and that distant, lonesome train whistle, the night will fill your senses with awe and satisfaction.
Tuesday, June 20
In the morning sky at 5 am, Venus is brilliant with the crescent Moon below, and the Pleiades star cluster also nearby. A great photo opportunity, use your camera on a tripod and make exposures of 2-30 seconds at 800 ISO with your self-timer to eliminate any camera shake. Don’t discard anything until you download and see it on a computer monitor—you’ll be surprised at all the stars! On this 1996 date in space history, Space Shuttle Columbia was launched with seven astronauts and the 40-foot Spacelab module in the cargo bay for one of the longest missions lasting 17 days.
Wednesday, June 21
The first day of Summer is today, the solstice occurring at 12:21 am. The Sun actually enters the constellation Gemini the Twins, though astrologers would have you think it’s in Cancer. Changes in the calendar centuries ago have put the skies out of sync with those entertaining horoscopes, but trust me, if you turned out the light during the day, you’d see the Sun in Gemini, not Cancer. On this 1993 date in space history, Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched with pressurized SpaceHab laboratory its cargo bay. The astronauts conducted 10 days of life science and material processing research, paving the way for future applications in the International Space Station.
Thursday, June 22
On this 1973 date in space history, three astronauts returned from a 28-day stay aboard America’s first space station, Skylab. Paul Weitz, Joseph Kerwin and Apollo 12 moonwalker Pete Conrad were the first crew aboard the huge Skylab, built inside a Saturn V rocket cylinder. Their four weeks in space was the world record at the time and helped pioneer the six-month missions spent by astronauts aboard the orbiting ISS.
Friday, June 23
Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the sky, a golden yellow high overhead and blue-white star Spica is to the planet’s left, both in Virgo the Virgin.
Saturday, June 24
Darkness holds off until around 9:15 pm, and rising in the east is the ringed world Saturn, between Scorpius and Sagittarius in the feet of the little known constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Handler.
Sunday, June 25
On this 1997 date in space history, two cosmonauts and an American aboard the Russian Mir Space station narrowly escaped death when a Progress supply spaceship collided with the Spektr module. The huge complex began losing pressure, but quick action shut off the crippled section and Mir was returned to its normal operations.
Monday, June 26
As the night wear on, Jupiter dips toward the western horizon after midnight and Saturn brings the Milky Way with it in the east.