Your Night Sky for June 12, 2019

The full moon is coming up early morning on June 17, so it’ll look full on June 16 and 17. It’s called the Strawberry Moon or the Rose Moon. On June 15 the moon is just above and between Jupiter on the left and the star Anteres on the right. On June 16 it’s just to the left of Jupiter.

On June 18 Mercury passes above Mars in the evening twilight. Currently Mars is getting faint and Mercury is getting brighter. So Mercury will actually be brighter than Mars. They’ll be low in the west 70 minutes after sunset, so they may be too low for us to see with our mountains. You can try using binoculars. Just remember that the brighter one is Mercury.

Circumpolar stars circle the North Pole and the South Pole. Since we’re on the north side of our planet, we see the North Star Polaris. Due to Earth’s rotation, the stars rotate Polaris to the left. The constellations that do that are Ursa Major the Big Dipper, Ursa Minor the Little Dipper, Draco the Dragon, Cepheus the King and Cassiopeia the Queen. These are visible all year although a few get very low in the sky certain times of the year.

Polaris is part of the Little Dipper and is the end of its handle. It’s a white star about 433 LY from Earth. So we’re looking at a light that left the star 433 LY ago. Although it’s only the 47th brightest star in our sky, Earth’s North Pole points almost directly at it which is how it became the North Star. So as Earth spins, Polaris does not appear to move at all.

Draco the Dragon is a long skinny pale 18 star constellation that wraps around Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Cepheus. It’s the eighth largest constellation in our sky, but no stars are brighter than magnitude 2. It also lacks star clusters and only has one nebula. It does have a few faint galaxies.
Thubon is his brightest star which is about 300 LY away; 5,000 years ago it was our North Star. Then Earth shifted and Polaris became our North Star.

The coiling curve of faint stars between the Big and Little Dipper is Draco’s tail. Then it curves around the Little Dipper where his body is. His head is his most recognizable feature since it contains his 3 brightest stars shaped in a triangle. In the spring his head raises high in the NE and in the summer it rises above Polaris making his head high in the sky. So this is the best time of year to view Draco.

Nu Draconis is the head of the dragon. It’s a double star that’s good for binocular viewing. Also the Cats Eye Nebulae NGC 6543 is one of the brightest planetary nebulae. When you find the head you’ll see the V either coming down or pointing up depending on where Draco currently is. NGC 6543 is in the center of the V.

Draco is home to the Draconid meteor shower which peaks on October 9. Also the Quandrantid meteor shower erupts from Draco at the beginning of January. It’s one of the heaviest, but only lasts a few hours. So even though it’s only a pale constellation, it does have some interesting things.


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