This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
This week, the planet Mercury will be fairly easy to spot in the evening twilight. Look about 12 degrees above the west-northwest horizon at 8:30 p.m. Remember that a clenched fist held at arm’s length looks about 10 degrees across. A telescope is necessary to observe Mercury’s gibbous phase.
Orange planet Mars is the brightest object in Leo the Lion, and can be found high in the west-southwest at nightfall. The planet Saturn is about 30 degrees east and slightly higher than Mars, in the south. Saturn is also 5 degrees above Virgo the Maiden’s brightest star, Spica. Saturn has a golden hue, and outshines Spica. Mars and Saturn are nearly twins in brightness this week. Saturn and its rings are spectacular through a telescope. Saturn is currently featured through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes.
The waning crescent moon remains visible in the eastern sky around dawn. It appears below brilliant planet Jupiter on Sunday the 17th. The moon is new on Tuesday the 19th.
China is scheduled to launch the Shenzhou 9 capsule with a crew of 3, including the country’s first female astronaut, on a 10 to 12 day mission to dock with China’s test space station module, Tiangong 1. The launch will likely occur at about 3:30 a.m., P.D.T. on Saturday, June 16, and should be carried live on CCTV-9. Before this launch, Tiangong 1 will fly directly over Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 13, between 8:41 and 8:46 p.m., P.D.T. It will cross the sky from the west-northwest to the east-southeast, and will be 78 degrees high in the north-northeast at 8:43 p.m., P.D.T. as seen from Griffith Observatory. For satellite visibility from other locations, check the predictions on www.heavens-above.com.
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 six days a week (Tuesday-Sunday) through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Sidewalk Astronomers is scheduled for Saturday, June 23.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.