The sky at night this week, 4-10 June 2018

The night sky is continuing to fill up with planets with all of them, except Mercury, visible at some point during the night. Mercury is not far away though and by next week all of the planets will be visible in the night sky (if you have a good horizon).

Jupiter and its moons

Jupiter is still in a great position, for observing, from soon after sunset until the early hours of the morning. The moons of Jupiter are also offering a few opportunities this week to see them pass in front of the huge planet including Ganymede which grazes Jupiter from Monday night about 10:40pm to 12:05am with the shadow following from about 1:00am to 2:40am.

Io also crosses the planet during the week beginning at 9:55pm on Tuesday night to 12:05am on Wednesday morning. The shadow follows closely after, from 10:30pm to 12:40am. Another treat happens on Sunday night from 9:35pm to 11:45pm when Europa crosses Jupiter, the shadow follows from 11:00pm to 11:15pm.

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Artist’s impression of Io crossing Jupiter (Credit: Me and my iPad)

Mars

Mars is currently in Capricorn and early in the week, specifically tonight, the Moon comes within just under 4 degrees of Mars. This will make a great photo opportunity for anyone catching it. Another thing to watch with Mars is that the distance between and us and Mars is decreasing on the way to its opposition at the end of July. On Monday, Mars will be 89.1 million kilometres away and by Sunday it will be nearly 6 million kilometres closer and nearly 1 arcseconds bigger in apparent size.

Saturn, Clusters and the star fields

Like Mars and Jupiter, Saturn is in a great spot for viewing all week, being nice and high in the sky in Sagittarius. Saturn is close to the asteroid Vesta early in the week which can be found by looking to the left of the star Polis and lining up the next three brightest stars within about 5 degrees. The middle star is actually an asteroid and is Vesta, you’ll have to be quick to see it in this position because its moving a little bit each day. Vesta reaches opposition in the middle of the month so worth keeping an eye on as it gets brighter and brighter and should be easy to spot with binoculars. Also very close to Saturn is the the Open Cluster M25 which lies about 2000 light years away. On the other side of the Sagittarius star cloud (also known as M24) is another really nice open cluster called M23 which is also about 2000 light years away. The whole area is awesome from just browsing the star fields and if you’re in a particularly dark site it can be quite tricky to see some of the objects simply because the whole field of view can be simply just full of stars.

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The position of Vesta on Monday night

Venus and the rest of the plants.

Venus is in the middle of Gemini about 16 degrees above the horizon just after sunset on Monday. By Sunday it’s well on its way to Cancer for its close brush with the Beehive Cluster and the Moon next week, Venus sets a little after 7pm.

If you get up at about 4am this week, and you have excellent horizons, then you’ll see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Neptune and Uranus all in the sky. You’ll have to be quick though because Jupiter will be nearly setting. Neptune is sitting in Aquarius and Uranus is in Pices.

Imaging opportunities

Later in the week when the Moon stops washing everything out and rises much later in the night then there’s a chance to have a look at some of the amazing nebulae around Sagittarius, including Lagoon, Triffid, Swan and Eagle. These four nebulae are highly photogenic and though your Eagle Nebula might not quite be a Pillars Of Creation, you can still get a fantastic result from these bright objects. The nebulae looks great in photos but it’s worth remembering that through the telescope you won’t get such beautiful views except where the emission nebula is bright enough.

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The Triffid Nebula (Credit: Me)