Night sky this week : A ‘strawberry moon’ gleams while corona borealis beams
This week it’s all about our satellite, with a stunning full “strawberry moon” due on friday. With the moon also particularly low in the sky this month, it’s sure to dominate and even be visible in the afternoon and early evening. From some parts of the world a subtle lunar eclipse will be visible, too, though not from most of europe or north america.
No matter, because from everywhere on the planet the elusive planet mercury will shine in twilight (binoculars at the ready!) While its brighter sister venus finally disappears from view after an incredible six months when it’s dominated the post-sunset night sky.
It’s also a great week to find corona borealis the “northern crown” a beautiful constellation of seven sparkling stars straight above your head at this time of year.
Monday, june 1, 2020: an afternoon moon, then spica
As the moon waxes towards its “full” phase it becomes easily viewable in daylight. Check out the eastern daytime sky in mid-afternoon today and you’ll see an 81%-illuminated moon. It will rise about 80 minutes later each day this week until friday’s full “strawberry moon” rises at dusk.
It’s a great chance to watch and photograph the moon during the day, and as it gets dark you’ll see bright star spica appear just below it in the south, with red supergiant star arcturus above it. Today the moon is at perigee, its closest point to earth on this orbit.
Wednesday, june 3, 2020: venus vanishes
Venus will pass between earth and sun today something called inferior conjunction by astronomers and go from being a bright, sparkling “evening star” to a “morning star.” However, it won’t be easy to spot in the pre-dawn night skies until about june 10, 2020.
Today is another good day for watching an almost-full moon in the daytime skies; look east in the early evening about two hours before dusk for a 96% illuminated moon.
Thursday, june 4, 2020: mercury rising
Look low above the western horizon after sunset and you may be able to spot mercury, which tonight will be at its greatest eastern elongation the furthest it appears to get from the sun, in the evening sky, from our point of view. At about 20° above the horizon at sunset, it’s just about as high in the sky as it ever gets (though effectively that’s the case all this week). You’ll need binoculars to see mercury, but don’t waste time; it will sink about 90 minutes after sunset.
Friday, june 5, 2020: ‘strawberry moon eclipse’
Today is a regular full moon, and for most viewers across the world, it’s effectively little more (or less) than that. A full moon viewed at moonrise (around dusk) is among the most beautiful sights in nature, but for those everywhere in the world except the americas it comes with one extra dimension. A penumbral lunar eclipse is not a “blood moon;” here only the outer shadow of the earth engulfs the moon, essentially acting as a dimmer switch.
Penumbral lunar eclipses are tricky to tell apart from a normal full moon, but if you’re an experienced moon-gazer, you’ll notice it temporarily lose its luster (if skies are clear). Over three hours, 58% of the moon will enter earth’s outer shadow. It will be best seen from asia and africa, with most of europe missing out.
Constellation of the week: corona borealis
It’s one of the most beautiful constellations going, but few people can find corona borealis the “northern crown.” High in the night sky at this time of year, this semi-circle curve of seven stars is sandwiched between the constellations of bootes and hercules. The easiest way to find it is first to locate bright star vega in the northeastern sky, and then find red arcturus high above. Corona borealis is about half-way between the two.
After a week dominated by the moon and mercury, finding corona borealis is a fine way to crown a great week of stargazing.
Have another look next week when the night sky will be moonless, so darker.
This news was originally posted on forbes.com