What's Up for June? A planetary necklace!

Jane Houston Jones jane at whiteoaks.com
Wed Jun 9 15:43:15 PDT 2010

If you were to pick a weekend for all-night stargazing, this weekend 
would an excellent choice! From dusk on Saturday all the way to dawn on 
Sunday you'll be treated to a starry necklace of planets, all strung out 
along the ecliptic plane of our solar system. By midnight or so the 
Milky Way will begin to span the sky, too! It will be possible to see 
all 8 planets, 10 if you count Ceres and Pluto (from a dark sky, that 
is).  ;-)

Planetary jewelry is topic of the June what's Up podcast, by the way, 
which you can download from the Solar System Exploration website, 
complete with additional links. 

Also on the JPL website: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/
and YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=JPLnews#g/u

In addition to the great planet lineup, early risers will also see a 
comet, and an asteroid or minor planet, plus you can hunt for Pluto, now 
demoted to dwarf planet status, but still very special. To see the comet 
- Comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught) scan the NE sky with your binoculars 15 -20 
degrees above the horizon - it will be near the brightest star of 
Perseus, Alpha Persei or Mirfak - ahhh, that was where the pretty Comet 
Holmes was just two years ago!  It is on the edge of naked eye 
visibility, which is made difficult due to the low horizon + the 
nearness of dawn.

Comet McNaught gets 1 degree lower every night after the 15th, until it 
is lost from our view as it reaches perihelion, or its closest approach 
to the sun on July 2nd. This weekend is the best and nearly the last 
time to see it. If you snooze through this one you will definitely lose!
Minor planets? Dwarf planets? You betcha! Ceres and Pluto are to be 
found right smack in the thickest part of the summer Milky Way - in the 
"steam" rising from teapot-shaped Sagittarius constellation.  Pluto 
skims the star cluster M24 and Ceres just stepped out of the Lagoon 
Nebula, M8.  Both the "M's" are naked eye clumps in the Milky Way, and 
glorious in binoculars. Early morning just before looking for comet 
McNaught will be a fine time to hunt these two down from a dark sky with 
a good skychart or star tour guide.
 From the greater LA area you can still see the brighter planets and you 
can try for the comet.  It doesn't rise until 2 am and the best time to 
see it will be when it is as high as it gets, just before the the crack 
of dawn. You need a pretty decent flat horizon (aka no mountains, hills, 
trees, buildings) to your Northeast.  It will only be about 20 degrees 
above the horizon at its highest. You may see the comet, and some of the 
faint tail. You won't see the detail shown in astrophotos - those are 
time exposures, and our eyes don't have those settings, unfortunately.  :-(

Almost every month your Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers step away from the 
sidewalk, drive 150+ miles each way, take big and small telescopes out 
to some of Southern California's great dark sky locations. We are happy 
to take friends on star tours - but ask first as some of our locations 
only have room for a couple extra cars (also no trucks or RV's this 
weekend for example) You can enjoy the darker skies all summer long from 
many city, state and national parks with nothing more than a pair of 
binoculars! Pencil in these dates to check against your calendars - 
these are the dark sky weekends. The week before these is also decent. 
June 12, July 10, August 7th and September 4+11. September 4th some of 
us will be at Glacier Point in Yosemite serving up free public 
stargazing. Anyone in the park is welcome to attend and look through the 
San Jose Astronomical Association's member telescopes, if you are hiking 
in the day, bring layers for the night. Glacier Point has astronomy 
every weekend from July 4 - Labor Day, with different astronomy clubs 
from Northern California sponsoring each weekend, except for the full 
moon. Members bring telescopes, guests get looks all night long, weather 
and telescope operator endurance permitting, that is. 

That's all for this month, :-)

Sky and Telescope comet charts 

Charts for Pluto, Neptune, Uranus - scroll to bottom 

Ceres finder chart:  

Jane Houston Jones
Monrovia, CA
My blog about Jupiter impacts: http://jane.whiteoaks.com/
My What's Up podcast June 2010: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/whatsup.cfm
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jhjones  http://twitter.com/CassiniSaturn

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