Were now entering the month of the southern winter solstice. Our reminder that it’s really winter is that the constellation Orion has set on the western horizon. For those who missed the spectacular views of the Orion Nebula, you need to wait until November ( or get up very early).
We are now starved of planetary views, with only a very faint Mars visible in the west during early evening. Venus and Mercury will soon be appearing in west in the early night sky.
The four brightest stars in the night sky – Sirius, Canopus, Alpha Centaurus, and
Arcturus are all visible early on.
20h00: Looking north the sickle of Leo, with the brightest stars, Regulus and Algieba (forming the sickle handle), are most prominent.
Looking a little further east, the red giant star, Arcturus, in the constellation Bootes is clearly visible. At magnitude 0.1, Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the night sky, and is relatively close to the solar system at 37 light years
High in the east another bright star, Spica, mark’s the position of the constellation Virgo.
The Milky Way now rises from the south east horizon. You can’t miss Scorpio, marked at its heart by another red giant, Antares. The orange colour of the star is unmistakable. It’s over 550 light years away and is huge – over 900 000 000 km in diameter. Placed in the centre of our solar system it would engulf all the planets out as far as Jupiter.
Follow the Milky way up in an south east to north west direction, and the Southern cross and pointers are now almost as far north as they can be.
Ancient mariners in the northern hemisphere may just have caught a glimpse of the Southern Cross on the southern horizon, around this time.
Looking due south you may still get a glimpse of the Small Megalanic Cloud. With Canopus bright in the Southwest.
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky is low on the western horizon, with Procyon slightly further left.
On Friday June 11, we have the earliest sunset of the year at 17.28. I’ve already explained why the earliest sunset does not coincide with the winter Solstice. On the following day, your sundial will most accurate (sundial time – watch time = 0) The winter solstice occurs on 21
June at 05h33. This is the shortest day at 9hours 55 minutes. For those wanting to sleep in, the latest sunrise of the year occurs on June 30 (07h34).
New moon occurs on 10 June and full moon on 24 June. The moon is a few thousand km further away (about 360 000 km) than at last full moon. From here on out the full moon will become smaller and less howl-worthy.
Stay warm, or join Darkskyes for clear winter skies and hot soup with crunchy croutons. Contact Regina to make a booking.