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Star Gazing - June 1, 2020


■ After dark, 1st-magnitude Spica hangs below the waxing gibbous Moon in the south.


■ Constellations seem to twist around fast when they pass your zenith — if you're comparing them to the
direction "down." Just a week and a half ago, the Big Dipper floated horizontally in late twilight an hour
after sunset (as seen from 40° N latitude). Now it's angled diagonally at that time. In another week and a
half it will be hanging straight down by its handle!


■ "Cassiopeia" usually means "Cold!" Late fall and winter are when this landmark constellation stands
high overhead (seen from mid-northern latitudes). But even on hot June evenings, it still lurks low. As
twilight fades out, look for it down near the north horizon: a wide, upright W, as shown below. The farther
north you are the higher it'll appear, but even as far south as San Diego and Atlanta it's completely above
the true horizon.

Cassiopeia inches along sideways low due north during and after dusk. This is the view from 40° north
latitude. Seen from the southern US, Cas will be down on the horizon. (Because yes, the Earth is round.)


■ After dark, it's the turn of 1st-magnitude Antares to hang the same distance below the Moon as Spica
did on Monday. Spica was twinkling pale bluish. Antares is more strongly orange.


■ Can you still catch Mercury in twilight, under Pollux and Castor as shown below? It's coming to the end
of a nice evening apparition. Its next good evening appearance doesn't come until winter 2021.
Mercury is still visible in the western twilight under the heads of Gemini, but it has faded greatly in the last
two weeks. It's now a touch fainter than Procyon. (They're magnitude +0.6 and +0.4, respectively.) This
scene is drawn for a skywatcher at 40° north latitude. If you're north of there Mercury will be higher; south
of there Procyon will be higher. (The blue 10° scale is about the width of your fist at arm's length.)

■ Full Moon (exactly so at 3:12 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). As the stars come out, look to the right of
the Moon (by roughly a fist at arm's length) for orange Antares and the other stars of upper Scorpius.

■ On this date UT the Moon undergoes a slight, almost undetectable penumbral eclipse for East Africa,
the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Australia. The Moon's southern side will be very slightly,
subtly shaded for maybe 40 minutes centered on 19:25 UT. Map, diagram, and details.


■ For much of the spring at mid-northern latitudes, the Milky Way lies right down out of sight all around
the horizon. But watch the east now. The rich Cassiopeia-Cepheus-Cygnus-Aquila stretch of the Milky
Way starts rising up all across the east these nights, earlier and higher every week. A hint for the light-
polluted: It runs horizontally under Vega, right through the Summer Triangle.
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh
current night sky over Nashville, TN
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