Celestial events in the skies for the week of June 19 – June 25, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
With daylight lasting nearly 16 hours and the Summer Solstice June 21st, there’s not much time for stargazing, but there are four planets to see, and this week the Moon waxes to a big full phase. Venus is brilliant after sunset. And when the twilight sets in, Jupiter is in the southeast. These are the third and fourth brightest objects in the whole sky, behind the Sun and Moon. 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 19
The Moon is at First Quarter tomorrow morning, making a right angle with the Earth and Sun at exactly 6:51 am. Watch it move across the sky as it teams up next to Jupiter on Saturday night.
Wednesday, June 20
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.
Thursday, June 21
The first day of Summer is today, the solstice occurring at 6:07 am. The Sun 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.
Friday, 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.
Saturday, June 23
Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the southeast sky, golden yellow that will dominate the Summer evenings through the Fall. You can see the tiny globe and four moons with 8-power binoculars (like 8x35s, common among nature and sports lovers).
Sunday, June 24
Darkness holds off until around 9:15 pm and rising in the east is the ringed world Saturn, at the top of Sagittarius.
Monday, 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.