You may have noticed that Venus has been plunging lower and lower and is soon to be gone from the evening sky. But, before it transits into the morning sky, it has one more spectacular trick up its sleeve. On Tuesday, June 5, most of us in North America will be able to witness the transit of Venus across the sun. You will want to be sure to watch this event because it will be the last time it happens until 2117.
First contact will begin at 4:05 p.m. and will last until sunset. The best viewing for this event will be through a properly filtered small telescope. As always, proper care must be taken when looking at the sun. No. 14 welding glass makes a good filter for looking at the sun with your unaided eyes. In Socorro, the New Mexico Tech Astronomy club will be hosting a Venus transit event at the Etscorn Campus Observatory beginning at 4 p.m. We will watch the transit of Venus until sunset and then continue with a star party. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Mercury puts in a really nice evening sky appearance beginning about the middle of the month until the middle of July. Shining at magnitude 0.0, Mercury sets about an hour and a half after the sun in the west-northwest during the last half of June. Mars and Saturn will both be easy to find high in the Southwestern sky. At magnitude +0.5 both outshine the nearby bright star Spica in Virgo. Saturn’s rings have closed, temporarily, to a tilt of 12.5 degrees from edgewise.
Jupiter has come out from behind the sun and is now a morning object rising about 45 minutes before sunrise at the beginning of the month. By month’s end it will rise two hours before the sun. Shining at magnitude -2.0, you will find it about halfway between the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) and Aldebaran in the Hyades (Taurus) star clusters.
Not to be outdone by Venus, the moon has another event that will be visible to most of us in North America early in the morning of June 4. Beginning at 4 p.m., you will be able to view a partial lunar eclipse. About an hour into the eclipse, about 40 percent of the moon will be covered by the umbra of the Earth’s shadow. The eclipse will end around 6 a.m.
The moon will be full on the 4th, last quarter on the 11th, new on the 19th and first quarter on the 27th. Looking east-northeast about a half hour before sunrise on the 17th, the waning crescent moon will be just to the left and slightly below Jupiter. Looking west-northwest about 45 minutes after sunset on June 21, the thin crescent Moon will be just above the horizon below and to the left of Mercury.
On the 25th through the 27th, looking west-southwest, the waxing first quarter moon will first pass by Mars and then Saturn.