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Shorter summer nights; still plenty to see

Sunday - 6/5/2011, 3:25pm  ET

spaceplace512.jpg
Backdropped by a night time view of the Earth and the starry sky, the Space Shuttle Endeavour is photographed docked at the International Space Station on May 28, 2011. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Summer is Here

Greg Redfern, wtop.com

Summer begins June 21 at 1:16 p.m. EDT and marks the longest period of sunshine for the year. With the shorter nights of summer there is still plenty to see in the sky and experience in local area events.

Skywatching Highlights

  • Mercury will be low in the west-northwest after sunset beginning June 22. If you have a clear and unobstructed horizon you should be able to see golden-yellow Mercury. On the 30th Mercury will be lined up with two stars - Castor and Pollux, and will be on the left. This will help zero in on this elusive planet.
  • Venus is low in the east-northeast and visible about a half hour before sunrise.
  • Mars is dim in the east-northeast and visible about an hour before sunrise. The thin crescent Moon will be just above and to the right of Mars on the 28th. Use the Moon as a guide to finding Mars.
  • Jupiter claims its title "King of the Planets" as it dominates the eastern sky several hours before sunrise.
  • Saturn is up in the south sky at sunset. The ringed planet is very close to a famous double star, Porrima (Gamma Virginis) all month. The two will be closest on June 11. Saturn is the brighter of the two and both will be visible in a telescope eyepiece - quite a sight with Saturn's rings and a double star in the same field of view! The Moon glides below this duo on the 9th and 10th.
  • New Moon is on the 1st, First Quarter Moon is on the 8thth and this month's Full Moon occurs on the 15th. This month's Full Moon is called the "Full Strawberry Moon" in recognition of the strawberry harvesting season. Last Quarter Moon is on the 23rd. Just before dawn the waning crescent Moon passes below the Pleiades star cluster on the 28th.

Here are our down to Earth events for this month:

Got a Topic That Interests You? I literally have a whole universe of topics to select from for my column. But I'm interested in hearing from WTOP readers about what interests them. Feel free to contact me at gredfern@earthlink.net with your suggestions and comments.

I have also started a daily blog that you can follow here.