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Jupiter in all its Glory May 31, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Geoff Chester, Jupiter, People, Planets, Space Agencies, Space Fotos, The Sky this Week, USNO, Website.
2006 May 25, 03:18 UT


USNO, The Sky this Week, US Navy, Geoff Chester


The Moon waxes in the evening sky this week, passing from the last of winter’s stars through the springtime constellations. By the end of the week she is poised to greet bright Jupiter. First Quarter occurs on June 3rd at 7:06 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Look for Luna between the Twin Stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, and ruddy Mars on the evening of the 30th. On the following night she lies less than three degrees north of Saturn. If you have binoculars, look between Saturn and the Moon for the scattered stars of the Beehive star cluster.

We are now approaching the shortest nights of the year. June evenings are characterized by more earthly lights. Fireflies will soon be launching themselves into their courtship flights, delighting children of all ages. The long, lazy twilights of the season last well into the evening hours, and as the month progresses the last of winter’s stars beat a hasty retreat. High overhead in the glow of twilight is one of the most prominent and isolated bright stars in the sky, the rose-tinted beacon known as Arcturus. It is the third-brightest star in the entire sky, and one of the closest of the so-called “giant” stars. It is some 300 times more luminous than the Sun, and it lies just under 37 light-years away from us. If you were born in 1969, the light you see tonight from Arcturus began its journey toward us at that time. Hypothetical Arcturians would just be learning about the Apollo 11 Moon landing about now.

Another reddish object may be found in the western sky as twilight deepens. Although he’s not as bright as Arcturus, Mars still catches the eye as he passes by the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. All three objects greet the crescent Moon on the evening of the 30th.

Saturn bides his time waiting for Mars to arrive in another two weeks. The ringed planet is slowly drifting eastward under the scattered stars of the Beehive star cluster. With the late ending of evening twilight you’ll have barely an hour to catch a binocular glimpse of the planet and cluster against a dark sky.

Jupiter is really putting on a show. Despite his low altitude for this year’s apparition, the giant planet has been a great target for amateur telescopes. Over the past several weeks a number of striking features have appeared in his turbulent cloud belts, including a long-lived oval that has changed from white to red in color. Now known as “Red, Jr.,” this feature alone would be worth staying up to see, but there is now a prominent red stripe that has appeared in the great South Equatorial Belt. Who knows what will happen next?

Dazzling Venus skulks in the glow of morning twilight in the hour before dawn. You’ll find her low in the east among the rising stars of the autumn sky.

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