This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through June 3, 2015. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The brightest planet, Venus, and the second brightest planet, Jupiter, can be seen together in the early evening sky as they slowly approach each other on consecutive nights. At sunset, Venus appears about 40 degrees above the west-northwest horizon while Jupiter is obvious to the upper left of Venus. Between May 27th and June 3rd, the apparent separation between the two planets shrinks from 25 degrees to 19 degrees. 25 degrees, for comparison, is the span of the Big Dipper’s stars. Venus can be seen until it slips below the horizon at 11:20 p.m. Jupiter sets at about an hour later.
Through a telescope, the gibbous phase of Venus will wane from 55-percent to 51-percent illuminated between May 27 and June 3, while its disk grows from 21 to 23 arcseconds wide.
Jupiter offers several interesting things to be observed with a telescope over the next few nights. Two of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons will cast shadows on Jupiter on Wednesday, May 27. Between sunset and 9:18 p.m. that evening, the large shadow of the moon Ganymede and the smaller shadow of the moon Io will appear near each other as they move from the center to the edge of Jupiter’s disk. The two shadows will briefly touch each other at 8:49 p.m., PDT, when Io grazes the shadow of Ganymede. Jupiter’s giant oval storm, the Great Red Spot, will be visible to observers in California on Wednesday, May 27th, and Friday the 29th.
The golden planet Saturn, in Libra the Scales, is visible in the east-southeast at sunset. The golden-hued planet crosses the meridian and is due south at 12:15 a.m. Saturn sets in the west-southwest during the dawn. A telescope will reveal the planet’s fascinating rings and several of its moons. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are currently featured through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.
The moon lights most of the nighttime hours between May 27 and June 3, and reaches full on Tuesday morning, June 2. The June full moon is nicknamed the Strawberry full moon. The waxing gibbous moon appears near Saturn on the night of June 1st.
The International Space Station, a home to six astronauts of various countries, will make four bright passes over Los Angeles over the next few days, two in the early evening and two in the early morning. The first evening pass happens on Saturday, May 30 between 9:20 and 9:26 p.m., PDT. The ISS, which will outshine Jupiter, will move from the south-southwest horizon to the east-northeast horizon. The ISS will appear highest, 48 degrees above the southeast horizon, at 9:23 p.m. The second evening pass is on Monday, June 1. The ISS will appear in the west-southwest at 9:09 p.m., then reaches its highest point, 52 degrees above the southwest horizon seconds before 9:13 p.m., before moving to the northeast horizon three minutes later. The morning passes happen at 4:33 a.m., PDT, on Monday, June 1 and at 4:23 a.m., PDT, on Wednesday, June 3.
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 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, May 30.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com.