Astronomical SIGHTS in a SKY NEAR YOU!

Graphics c/o Starry Night Education

This page updated June 25, 2019.

See also the HOME page or COMING EVENTS .

VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.

The Planets for Spring/Summer 2019:

Venus continues as the obvious Morning Star into the spring skies of 2019 but it is getting closer and closer to the Sun. By July it is behind Sol and not visible until late fall as an Evening Star. The aptly-named Mercury circles the Sun quickly and alternates between morning sky and evening every few months. It re-appears in the western sky in June 2019. Jupiter has finally changed over into the evening skies and reaches opposition June 10 after which it is primarily an evening sky planet.

Mars is moderately bright (magnitude 1.8), but it is too far to see any features or phase on its surface. It passed the Pleiades in early April and skims by M35 on May 18/19. See below. That will be a good photo opportunity! At the end of May it starts to get lost in twilight in the west after sunset but it has one last hurray on June 17 when Mercury passes less than 0.3° from Mars in twilight sunset skies.

Saturn follows Jupiter into evening skies by about two hours and becomes an evening sky object by the start of summer. It is in Sagittarius and easy viewing just to the east of Jupiter all summer long.

As for the gas giants, both Uranus and Neptune finally return to evening skies by early summer but they are still visible only in the wee hours of the morning.

Dwarf planet, Pluto is in Sagittarius near Saturn. Even then, it can be seen only in moonless sky and with larger telescopes. 2019 Finder charts for all planets, dwarf planets and asteroids are found on our CHARTS/FORMS page.

Summer Sky Sights

June 10: Jupiter at Opposition
Look south at midnight to see the king of planets shining in the sky as the brightest object in that direction. Shining at magnitude -2.6, Jupiter is as bright as it can get for the year being it is closest to us right now in its orbit. At opposition, both Earth and the planet in question are closest to each other in space and on the same side of the Sun so the planet is highin the sky opposite the Sun at midnight. The apparent size of the planet in a telescope is also largest at this time and Jupiter makes it even more interesting being the biggest object in the sky apart from the full width of Saturn’s rings. Planet sizes are measured in arc-seconds where 60” (seconds) = 1’ (minute). This time around Jupiter will be about 46 arc-seconds across. Compare this to Venus, which gets 50 arc-seconds at its closest. Right now, being across the solar system from us, it is a mere 10 arc-seconds in diameter (still shining at -3.8 magnitude, however). Diagram below is for June 10 at 1 am or so.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 8.35.08 PM

June 17-19: Mars and Mercury Close Approach
Look west after sunset and the sky is dark for an appulse of Mercury and Mars on the evenings of June 17-19. This is the closest approach for the current pass of Mercury and Mars with a separation of about a quarter degree (18.5 minutes) on June 18. Both should be visible in a low power view in a telescope. They are under a degree apart from June 17 to June 19. Both stay above the western horizon until 11 pm and should be visible in dark sky as long as the view to the west is free of clouds. They are 15 degrees up at sunset (9:11 pm DST on June 18) and only 6° high at 10 pm when twilight is mostly gone. Gemini’s Pollux and Castor are just above the pair. View below shows the view June 17.

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 2.32.32 PM

July 3: Moon, Mars and Mercury nicely grouped in west
Look west around 10 pm and it should be dark enough to see a thin crescent Moon a scant degree above the horizon. Just above and to the left are Mercury (3° up) and Mars (2° up). Mercury and Mars are both about the same brightness with Mercury on the left slightly brighter at 1.44 and Mars at 1.81. This is by no means an easy observation, but give it a try. The moon is very young as well, not a record by any means at 1.42 days old or 34 hours.

July 3 10 pm Merc Mars Moon

July 9: Saturn at Opposition
Planets at opposition are located in the sky all night long and so the period of viewing is the maximum. Last month it was Jupiter and now it is Saturn’s turn. For the next several months, Jupiter and the ringed planet are well placed in the evening sky for viewing (you do not need to wait they rise in the wee hours). Saturn’s rings are tilted close to the maximum at 24.3°, it is bright at magnitude 0.05 and the disk is about half as big as Jupiter. Good summer viewing of both Gas Giants! On July 16, the Full Moon appears beside Saturn all night long.

Sat Jup at oppn July 9

July 29: S. Delta Aquarid meteors
This is a minor shower of only 20 shooting stars per hour or so and unlike the Perseids in August which is near the FM, there is only an 11% sunlit crescent to brighten the night after 3 am in the morning. So up to then, skies will be relatively dark. Aquarius is on the meridian at 3 am so the circumstance are good for seeing a good part of the 20/h during the dark hours of July 29/morning of July 30.

Aug 13, 2019 Perseid Meteor Shower
The most eagerly awaited shower of the summer is going to be brightened considerably by the nearly full moon. The Moon rises at 7 pm while it is still daylight and by midnight when the shower should be going full strength, it is high on the meridian. It sets at 4 am and with a 3 am peak for the shower, only the brightest fireballs will be visible. Under ideal conditions, 90 meteors would appear per hour, but we will be lucky to get half this number. In any case, those bright fireballs will be worth making an effort to observe. Meteor diehards with and without cameras will likely be camped out at the Fox Observatory all night long if weather allows. Diagram below shows the scene at midnight.

Perseid Radiant Aug 12

A summary of the entire 2019 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
An astronomical calendar for 2018 (with diagrams of sky sights like those above) will be available soon for download from Alan Dyer's website here: (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page). Or here: Amazing Sky Calendar 2019

Meteor shower calendar for 2019 from is available here:
EarthSky Meteor Calendar 2019