Monday, September 25, 2023

Space Is The Place: The Night Sky Over Belper, June 2023

In June’s Night Sky Over Belper: The Summer Solstice, NLCs, Summer Days, the Moon and Planets.


Summer Solstice: 21st of June

The 1st of June marks the start of meteorological summer.

The Summer months will bring longer days and shorter nights.  During the summer nights most bright stars will be visible, but it is difficult to see fainter stars or diffuse objects like galaxies.  See Space is the Place June 2022 for an explanation of Astronomical Twilight.

The Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the start of astronomical summer, takes place on the 21st of June.  Sunrise will be around 3.57am.  After the Solstice, nights will start to get gradually longer as we approach Autumn.

(Headline image, Sunrise from the ISS – courtesy of NASA Images).


Noctilucent Clouds

June / July is the time to look for noctilucent clouds (NLCs).  These are clouds that form high up in the atmosphere (about 50 miles above the Earth’s poles).  NLCs are normally too faint to be seen as they are made up of ice particles but in the summer months the angle of the sun can sometimes highlight NLC’s so that they are visible as glowing clouds after sunset.

NLCs are a rare sight, your best chance to see them is to look towards the north-west during the darkest part of the night (from 11.00pm onwards).  You are looking for glowing wispy clouds.  See the British Astronomical Association and Nightskyhunter (NLCs) for observation notes.


The Moon

4th of June: Full Moon

21 – 22nd of June: Over these nights the crescent Moon will appear close to Venus and Mars.

27th of June: The Moon is close to the bright star Spica.


The Planets

Venus is currently a magnificent sight dominating the evening sky (setting around midnight).  The last time I looked at it through a telescope (May) it was showing its half phase.  Look for Venus in the western part of the sky; on the 21 /22nd of June it makes a nice pairing with the crescent Moon.

Mars moves into the constellation of Leo this month.  Mars appears to be close to the crescent Moon and Venus on the 21 /22nd of June so look for it then.  It is much dimmer than Venus but distinctly red so should be unmistakable in that configuration.

Jupiter.  For early risers Jupiter takes over the sky in the early morning (from 3.30 am).  It appears to pair with the Moon on the 14th of June.  Sun worshippers should also be able to spot it when celebrating the solstice on the 21st.


The International Space Station
The International Space Station is one of the brightest objects in the night sky.  It is not hard to spot and flies-past periodically throughout the year.  Fly-pasts tend to swing from PM to AM.  Typically ISS will be in the sky for up to four minutes at a time. It moves slowly across the sky, at first bright and then fading as it moves over the horizon.

No sightings have been reported up to the 15th of June. Check NASA’s Spot the Station site for possible sightings later on in the month. You may also want to sign up to the Alerts Site – which gives advance warning of the most prominent sightings.