This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through June 29th, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Although the longest day occurred at the summer solstice on June 20, the latest sunset, by about a minute, happens on June 29. Sunrise, however, is more than 2 minutes later on the 29th than on the 20th, so days are actually becoming shorter. The slight mismatch between the longest day and the latest sunset is primarily the result of the tilt of earth’s rotation axis combined with earth’s revolution around the sun.
Three bright planets are high in the sky and easy to see after sunset. The brightest now visible is Jupiter, in the constellation Leo the Lion. Jupiter is high in the western sky during evening twilight and sets in the west at about midnight. Orange planet Mars, in the constellation Libra the Scales and golden hued planet Saturn, in the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, are both in the southeast sky early in the evening. The two planets form a conspicuous triangle with the orange star Antares, located below Saturn. Antares is the brightest star of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. Mars crosses the meridian in the south at about 10:00 p.m., followed by Saturn an hour later. The moons and cloud features of Jupiter, the dusky markings of Mars, and the stunning rings of Saturn are all currently featured through the public telescopes of Griffith Observatory.
The moon has left the early evening sky. It rises at 9:56 p.m. on the 22nd and at 1:55 a.m. on the 29th. Over the same period, the moon’s phase wanes from gibbous to crescent, and is last quarter on the morning of the 27th.
Be on the lookout for meteors! The June Boötid meteor shower is not very dependable, but it can produce a lot of meteors when it does occur. This year there is a small possibility of seeing Boötid meteors between June 23rd and 27th. The June Boötids are caused when fragments shed by the periodic comet 7/P Pons Winnecke encounter earth’s orbit. Boötids have produced spectacular meteor showers in 1916, 1927, 1998 and 2004. If they do occur, Boötid meteors might be seen at any hour of the night. They seem to stream from the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. Boötes starts the evening directly overhead and moves close to the northwest horizon by the start of dawn.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, July 9th.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org