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TOPIC: June 2009


L

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RE: June 2009
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June 30th is Meteor Day
Just about every single day -- scratch that -- make that *every* day, there is something to celebrate and/or think about and/or ponder and/or all of the above. We like it when it is a food-related day, of course, but Meteor Day, which happens to fall on June 30th each year, suits us fine, too.

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The Bootid Meteors may be visible between midnight and dawn, radiating overhead from an area near bright orange Arcturus, Herdsman. The slow, fickle meteor shower may be visible all week as Earth glides through the lingering dust tail of Comet Pons-Wineicke. Optical equipment unnecessary. The moon floats below Saturn in the west and sets early.

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As much as the rain is needed, I would prefer clear skies. It is hard to make astronomical observations through clouds, or skies heavy with hazy humidity.
Now that summer is here, however, the evenings are much warmer and more comfortable for staying outside to observe. Except for the mosquitoes and other such creepy pests.
The Summer Triangle, an asterism, and the summer constellations are moving into prime position for viewing as is the broad band of starry light called the Milky Way. The Milky Way is the edge of our home galaxy.

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Summer arrives astronomically this weekend in the form of the Summer Solstice. That's when the sun reaches its highest point in our sky.
The noontime altitude of the sun here in Rochester is just more than 68 degrees above the southern horizon. That's within 22 degrees from the overhead zenith. Actually, the sun doesn't reach its highest point in the sky at noon this time of year. That happens after 1 p.m. because of Daylight Savings Time and our exact longitude.

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Summer's here officially, since today's the summer solstice. That's when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky.
The noontime altitude of the sun in Everett is about 66 degrees above the southern horizon. That's within 25 degrees from the overhead zenith. Actually the sun doesn't reach its highest point in the sky at noon this time of year. That happens after 1 p.m. because of daylight savings time and our exact longitude.

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The evening of Saturday, June 20, marks the shortest night of the year. Even most astronomers likely enjoy the long period of sunlight, though they may not as readily admit it. Still, the short night means we have to make the most of it. The summer night has many splendors indeed packed in the few hours of darkness.
Solstice arrives at 1:46 a.m. Sunday morning (June 21), when summer arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. From mid-northern latitudes, on June 20, the sun will set at 8:25 p.m. EDT and rise at 5:08 a.m. For those who are concerned that days start getting shorter at once, take heart: It takes awhile. Not until July 5 does the sun set a whole minute earlier!

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One event that won't be covered by any kind of clouds is the summer solstice on Saturday, June 20. Now, most of your calendars will show the solstice on Sunday, June 21. The solstice occurs at 1:46 a.m. eastern daylight time which, counting back two hours for the time zone changes, puts it at 11:46 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Saturday June 20, here in Southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas.
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About an hour before sunrise on the 19th June, 2009, a crescent Moon will line up Venus, and Mars in the eastern sky. The trio should make for a good photographic opportunity.
On the following morning, the moon will have moved towards the Pleiades star cluster. The faint light of Mercury may also be spotted on the horizon.
On the 21st, the thin crescent Moon is near to Mercury.

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Before 6 a.m., the eastern sky is aglow with celestial beauty all month: brilliant Venus resembles a headlight. The Morning Star is brightest and shines 20 degrees above the eastern horizon. Dim, ruddy Mars (an orange dot) climbs 3 degrees from the left side of Venus. Mercury rises to its highest eastern elevation below the delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades star cluster) in Taurus. Bright Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, higher in the northeast.
Capella, still visible near the northwestern horizon after sunset, steers Auriga around Polaris, and reappears in the northeast at dawn. Golden Jupiter and dim blue Neptune ( degree apart) rise in the southeast before 1 a.m. in Capricornus. The waning moon floats near Jupiter. Blue-green Uranus appears in the east by 3 a.m. Fomalhaut twinkles below bright Jupiter in the southeast. Huge Scorpius crawls onto the southwestern horizon. The Sagittarian Teapot (center of our Milky Way Galaxy) lies in the south. Dim Pluto hides in deep space, above the Teapot.

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