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Monday, 28 May 2018  •  Sunday, 12 Hawthorn Moon 2018 (night)

Watching the night sky in Hawthorn Moon 2018

16 May - 13 June 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 29 May, 14:20 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hawthorn Moon 2018

Venus is the evening star, and continues to climb slowly away from the sunset, ever brightening. On the evening of 17 May, the new crescent moon is nearby. On 9 & 10 June, Venus is in a line with Pollux and Castor, the bright stars of Gemini.

Jupiter shines very brightly in the evening and night sky in the constellation Libra. Mid-month it sets around two hours before sunrise. On the evening of 27 May, the moon is nearby.

Saturn is in the night and morning sky in the northern part of Sagittarius, rising in the late evening, and brightening as it approaches opposition next month. On the night 31 May - 1 June, the just past full moon is very close north of Saturn.

Mars rises an hour or two after Saturn, and is significantly brighter. It brightens throughout the month as it approaches its nearest pass to Earth in July, when it will be even brighter than Jupiter. For northern hemisphere viewers, it is low in the sky, as it is well to the south, even lying somewhat south of the general plane of the solar system. This lunar month, it passes through the western part of Capricornus. On the night of 2-3 June, the moon is nearby. By the end of the month, Mars rises around midnight, depending on your location, and then you can see both very bright planets in the sky, with Saturn in between.

For the first week of the lunar month, Mercury is still visible in the southern hemisphere’s eastern morning sky, but then passes the far side of the sun on 6 June.

The month ahead: Oak Moon 2018

14 June - 12 July 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 28 June, 04:53 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Oak Moon 2018

Venus is the bright evening star in the west after sunset. For northern hemisphere viewers, Venus is highest above the horizon after dark around the start of the lunar month. After that, it continues to pull outwards from the sun, but the solstice is upon us, and the plane of the solar system tilts lower in the south-western sky. As seen from the southern hemisphere, Venus continues to climb for another couple of months. On 15 June, the new crescent moon is near the bright planet.

Mercury rises into the western evening sky from around 19 June, poorly seen at first from the southern hemisphere, but soon well seen from both halves of Earth. For the rest of the lunar month, it lies between Venus and the sunset, making it easy to find, and it is one of these times when you can get a good sense of the inner solar system: the sun just below the horizon, then Mercury, then Venus, and in your mind you may be able to swing the line round to Earth as well, to see us clearly as the third planet. Between 22 and 24 June, Mercury passes south of Castor and Pollux, the bright stars of Gemini, and northern hemisphere viewers may be able to see them with Mercury as the sky darkens. Mercury is brighter than either. On 12 July, Mercury reaches 26.4° east of the sun.

On 9 & 10 July, Venus passes a degree north of Regulus, the bright star of Leo.

Jupiter shines very brightly in the evening and early night sky in the constellation Libra. Mid-month, it sets an hour or two after midnight, depending on your location. On the evening of 23 June, the moon is not so far north of the huge planet.

Saturn is less bright than Jupiter and Mars, but nevertheless shines brightly all night in the constellation Sagittarius. On 27 June, it comes to opposite the sun and nearest to Earth, 1354 million kilometres, or 75 light minutes away. Using binoculars or a small telescope, look for its rings, on fine display this year, and perhaps its bright moons Titan and Rhea.

Although Saturn is at its brightest at this time, the full moon is nearby on the night 27/28 June, and swamps its light somewhat. As seen from Europe, in the early hours of 28 June, the moon comes very close to Saturn, and indeed passes a degree north of the planet just after it has set in the westernmost parts of the continent. [including Cornwall]

Also in Sagittarius is the very faint dwarf planet Pluto, which comes to its own opposition on 12 July, after its closest pass to Earth on 10 July, when it is 4874 million kilometres or 4.5 light hours away. You need a fairly powerful telescope to see it.

Mars rises in the late evening, and brightens considerably during the month. It stops moving eastwards through the stars of Capricornus on 26 June, as Earth catches it up in its orbit, and makes it appear to go backwards against the background, and head that bit further south. On the night of 30 June to 1 July, the moon is north of Mars. By the end of the month, Mars is almost as bright as Jupiter.

At dark moon, there is a minor partial eclipse of the sun visible from Tasmania and the far south of Australia and New Zealand. From Hobart, maximum eclipse is at 13:25 on 13 July (03:25 UTC), when just 3.5% of the sun is covered by the moon.

William Morris
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