Status Report

The Sky This Week 6-13 June 2003

By SpaceRef Editor
June 6, 2003
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The Moon waxes in the evening sky this week. Full Moon occurs on June 14th at 7:16 am Eastern Daylight Time. June’s Full Moon is variously known as the Rose Moon, Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon, or Honey Moon. All of these popular names imply a warm tint to Luna’s otherwise silvery appearance. Careful scrutiny of her position in the sky each night this week will reveal the reason why this is so. As the week opens, the Moon lies north of the Ecliptic plane and north of the celestial equator, gliding through the stars of Leo, the Lion. Her nightly course around the Earth brings her into the southern hemisphere of the sky by the evening of the 9th, and by the week’s end she not only lies well south of the celestial equator but south of the Ecliptic as well. Thus, when the Full Moon rises on the night of the 14th, Luna is down in the southern reaches of the sky. When she transits the meridian, she is only some 25 degrees above the southern horizon. This low elevation causes her fair light to pass through much more of the earth’s atmosphere, which is loaded with water vapor, dust and pollen particles, and other contaminants. These in turn scatter blue component of the Moon’s light, making her appear less blue and more red. Compare this Full Moon and the same phase in December and you’ll note a dramatic difference.

The brightening Moon effectively wipes out the fainter stars in the sky, so fans of obscure constellations and the summer Milky Way will have to wait a couple of weeks before Luna goes away. However, we are now approaching the shortest nights of the year anyway, so folks who enjoy evening strolls should be happy. Those of us who are fans of deep sky observing will get our dark nights back in good time.

Saturn has now all but disappeared into the evening twilight. We’ll have to wait until August to see him in the absence of twilight before sunrise, and he’ll return to the evening sky at the year’s end.

Jupiter continues to struggle against the advancing Sun, and for now he’s still got a few hours of easy observing time in the early evening sky. By 10:00 pm he’s too low to clear the trees in my yard, and by the week’s end he sets before midnight. He’ll soon follow Saturn into the twilight glare.

Mars is still skimming eastward among the faint stars of autumn. This week finds him moving into the constellation Aquarius, where he will spend the duration of this summer’s opposition. He gradually slows his frantic eastward pace, and by the end of the week he’s easily spotted low in the southeast at around 1:00 am. It won’t be long before he swings into the evening sky, dazzling Earthbound skywatchers with his distinctive ruddy glow.

SpaceRef staff editor.