Starwatch column: String of planets visible mid-June; supermoon rises June 13
To catch it, check your local time of moonset and look to the southwest 20 minutes beforehand. Or, watch the moon rise against a sunlit sky the evening of June 13.
June begins with Jupiter sailing away from Mars, moving ever higher and westward above the predawn eastern horizon.
About 75 minutes before sunrise, Venus will be quite low in the east. To the upper-right of the brilliant planet will be Mars, and to its upper-right will be bright Jupiter. West of Jupiter, you’ll see Saturn well up in the southeast.
With a clear sky, an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon and binoculars, you may spot Mercury in the sun’s foreglow, to Venus’ lower-left, between about June 17 and 25. Once Mercury is up, all five planets visible to the naked eye will be strung out in an arc from left in the order Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — the same order as their distances from the sun.
However, the sun will probably begin to wash out Saturn and Mars before Mercury appears. So be sure to look for Saturn and Mars by 75 minutes before sunrise, then try to spot Mercury about a half-hour later.
The night of June 13-14 delivers a large and gorgeously bright “supermoon.” It gets its beauty by reaching fullness at 6:51 a.m. June 14 — less than 12 hours before perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a lunar cycle. Unfortunately, on that morning the moon sets before reaching fullness. To catch it, check your local time of moonset and look to the southwest 20 minutes beforehand. Or, just watch the moon rise against a sunlit sky the evening of June 13.
Summer arrives officially with the solstice at 4:13 a.m. June 21, when the sun reaches a point over the Tropic of Cancer. At that moment Earth will be lighted from the Antarctic Circle up to the North Pole and beyond to the Arctic Circle on the dark side of the planet.
The University of Minnesota’s public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, see: Duluth, Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium: www.d.umn.edu/planet