The Solar System in June 2016

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The southern hemisphere winter solstice is on June 21 with the Sun furthest north at about 10am.

Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight Times in June

                            June  1  NZST                    June 30  NZST
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
       SUN: rise:   7.34am,  set:  5.02pm    rise:   7.45am,  set:  5.04pm
Twilights
  Civil:    starts: 7.06am,  ends: 5.31pm    starts: 7.16am,  ends: 5.33pm
  Nautical: starts: 6.32am,  ends: 6.05pm    starts: 6.42am,  ends: 6.07pm
  Astro:    starts: 5.58am,  ends: 6.39pm    starts: 6.08am,  ends: 6.41pm

June Phases of the Moon (Times as Shown By Guide)

          New moon:      June  5 at  3.00 pm (03:00 UT)
  First quarter: June 12 at  8.10 pm (08:12 UT)
  Full moon:     June 20 at 11.02 pm (11:02 UT)
  Last quarter   June 28 at  6.19 am (June 27, 18:19 UT)

The Planets in June

Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will be prominent in the evening sky with the latter low by late evening. Mercury will start June as an easy morning object in the dawn sky. It will brighten during the month but get too close to the Sun to observe towards the end of June.

Venus is at superior conjunction on June 7, it then becomes an evening object but remains too close to the Sun to observe.

Mercury starts June as a morning object rising more than 2 hours before the Sun on the 1st. With a magnitude 0.9 it will be 10° up an hour before sunrise. Look for Mercury in a direction nearly 30° north of east. The planet is at its greatest elongation 24° west of the Sun on the 5th. During the rest of June Mercury will slip back towards the Sun but also gain in brightness, reaching a magnitude -1.6 on the 30th. But by then it will rise only 30 minutes before the Sun.

On the morning of June 4 a very thin crescent moon will be 6° from Mercury, the moon to the lower right of the planet. An occultation of Mercury by the moon, shortly before midnight NZ time, will only be visible from parts of the southern Atlantic Ocean including South Georgia.

Venus is close to the Sun all month. Too close for observation. On the first it rises into the morning sky only 7 minutes before the Sun.

The planet is at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on June 7. At this conjunction Venus will pass behind the Sun as "seen" from the Earth. In fact the "occultation" of Venus by the Sun lasts from about 11 am on June 6 (June 5, 23hr UT) to 9am on June 8 (June 7, 21 hr UT), that is for some 46 hours. At conjunction Venus will be 108 million km (0.72 au) beyond the Sun

After conjunction Venus will become an evening object. By the end of June it will set only 25 minutes after the Sun.

Mars starts June at magnitude -2.0, the same as Jupiter. But the colours are very different, Mars being distinctly orange. Following conjunction late in May, the Earth will be pulling away from Mars during June. As a result the planet will dim a little, but still be at magnitude -1.6 on the 30th.

During June Mars will be in Libra moving to the west towards alpha Lib and away from Antares and Saturn. The planet is stationary on June 30.

The 90% lit moon will be at its closest to Mars for the month on the evening of the 17th when the two will be a little over 8° apart..

Jupiter will be best placed for viewing early evening as it sets shortly after midnight on the 1st and at 10.42 pm on the 30th. The planet remains in Leo, its position changes little during the month, being stationary on June 10.

The 41% lit moon will be about 5° below Jupiter an hour or so before they set on June 11. They will be considerably closer, while below NZ's horizon, a few hours later.

Saturn is at opposition on June 3, so will be rising close to the time of sunset and setting near the time the Sun rises. At opposition Saturn will be 1.35 billion km from the Earth (9.01 AU) and a further 150 million km from the Sun.

The planet is in Ophiuchus moving slowly to the west a few degrees below Antares, as seen in the evening. With a zero magnitude Saturn is noticeably brighter than Anatares or any other star near it. Mars, brighter still, is 18° from Saturn.

The moon passes Saturn on the 19th but the two will be closest soon after midday. By the time they are visible in the evening the almost full moon will be 5° below Saturn. The latter will be about 22° up to the east.

Outer Planets

Uranus is a morning object in Pisces at magnitude 5.9. It rises about 4 hours before the Sun on June 1 and 6 hours earlier on the 30th. The moon passes Uranus twice during June.

On the morning of June 2 at about 7am, the 15% lit crescent moon will be just over 3° from Uranus. The planet will be to the left of the moon and a little higher. It should be easy to spot Uranus using binoculars, there are two stars a little fainter than Uranus between the two.

The moon passes Uranus again on the 29th. This time the two are closest at midday, at 7am they will again be just over 3° apart, with the 38% lit moon above and a little to the left of Uranus..

Neptune rises at midnight on June 1 and nearly 2 hours earlier on the 30th. So the planet is beginning to move into the evening sky, but will still be best placed for viewing in the morning a while before sunrise. The planet, at magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius.

Neptune is stationary on June 14 after which it will start to move slowly to the west. It will be about half a degree from the 3.7 magnitude star lambda Aqr. The planet will be to the upper right of the star. No stars as bright as Neptune are between the two.

Pluto at magnitude 14.3 rises early evening during June, less than half an hour after sunset by the end of the month. The planet remains in Sagittarius. It passes the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr during June, with the two only 3 arc-minutes apart, one-tenth the diameter of the full moon, on the 25th.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres, magnitude 9.3, is in Cetus during June. It rises at 2.45 am on the 1st and just under an hour earlier by the 31st.

(4) Vesta is a dawn object in Taurus. At the beginning of June it rises half an hour before the Sun, by the end of the month some 95 minutes before the Sun. Mercury passes Vesta during June as the two move east. They are closest on the mornings of June 22 and 23 when Vesta (magnitude 8.4) will be 2° to the upper right of Mercury (magnitude -0.8)

Brian Loader
New Zealand

The Solar System in May 2016

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in May

                            May  1  NZST                     May 31  NZST
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
       SUN: rise:   7.05am,  set:  5.29pm    rise:   7.33am,  set:  5.03pm
Twilights
  Civil:    starts: 6.39am,  ends: 5.56pm    starts: 7.05am,  ends: 5.31pm
  Nautical: starts: 6.07am,  ends: 6.29pm    starts: 6.31am,  ends: 6.06pm
  Astro:    starts: 5.34am,  ends: 7.01pm    starts: 5.58am,  ends: 6.39pm

May PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          New moon:      May  7 at  7.30 am (May  6, 19:30 UT)
  First quarter: May 14 at  5.02 am (May 13, 17:02 UT)
  Full moon:     May 22 at  9.14 am (May 21, 21:14 UT)
  Last quarter   May 30 at 12.12 am (May 29, 12:12 UT)

The planets in May

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on May 9 when it will transit the Sun, an event visible from the opposite side of the Earth to NZ. After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object and will be readily visible towards the end of May. Mars is at opposition on May 22 when it will be as bright as Jupiter. Mars will be close to Antares and Saturn.

Mercury starts May as an evening object, but sets only 24 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, so is not observable. It is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the morning of May 10 NZST.

At the May conjunction Mercury will transit the Sun. The transit starts at 11:12 pm on 9 May (NZST) and ending at 6:42 am on 10 May (NZST); UT date and times are May 9, 11:12:18 and 18:42:14 respectively. The end is about half an hour before sunrise at Wellington. Thus the transit is not visible from New Zealand nor from Australia. The Middle East, Europe and Africa are well placed for viewing the start of the transit, the later stages are visible from the Americas. Apart from much of the Atlantic Ocean, Greenland and Brazil are the best places for seeing the entire event.

After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object moving away from the Sun fairly rapidly. By May 24 the planet, at magnitude 1.8 will be some 7.5° above the horizon an hour before sunrise. A week later Mercury, now magnitude 1.0, will be nearly 10° up an hour before sunrise. Look for Mercury in a direction about 25° north of east.

Venus, in the morning sky, is close to the Sun all month. At the start of May its elongation is 10° with the planet rising 50 minutes before the Sun. By the 31st it will rise only 9 minutes before the Sun. So viewing is going to be difficult.

Mars, which has been steadily brightening recently, is at opposition on May 22. At magnitude -2.1 it will briefly be as bright as Jupiter. Mars will be close to Antares, the two just under 9° apart. The star at magnitude 1.1 is looking almost dim compared to the planet. Saturn will be about 12° from Mars and on the evening of May 22, the just past full moon will be 9° distant.

Mars is closest in its orbit to the Earth on May 31 when the two will be just over 75 million kilometres apart.

Jupiter will be best placed for viewing early evening, although it doesn’t set until after midnight. The planet is in Leo, its position changes little during the month, being stationary on May 10.

The 66% lit moon will be just over a degree from Jupiter on May 15.

Saturn rises an hour and three quarter after the Sun sets on May 1, and just 6 minutes after sunset on the 31st. So it is best viewed later evening. The planet, in Ophiuchus, is a few degrees from Antares. Saturn’s magnitude brightens from 0.2 to 0.0 during the month.

The moon passes Saturn on the 22nd but will be closest well after they set in NZ. The two are about 7° apart on the evening of May 22 and about 7.5° apart the following evening with the moon the opposite side of Saturn.

Outer planets

Uranus is a morning object in Pisces at magnitude 5.9. It rises about 100 minutes before the Sun on the 1st increasing to 4 hours earlier on the 31st.

Neptune is in the morning sky, rising just after midnight by May 31. The planet, at magnitude 7.9 is in Aquarius. Neptune is moving to the east past the 3.7 magnitude star lambda Aqr. The two are closest mid month when less than half a degree apart. Neptune will be to the upper right of the star. No stars as bright as Neptune are between the two.

Pluto at magnitude 14.4 rises close to 9.30 at the start of May and 2 hours earlier by the end of the month. The planet remains in Sagittarius less than 1° from the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr.

Minor planets

(1) Ceres, magnitude 9.3, is in Cetus during May. It rises just before 4 am on the 1st and just over an hour earlier by the 31st.

(4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, is in Taurus. Its starts May as an evening object setting less than an hour after the Sun. It is at conjunction with the Sun on the 24th when the two will appear about 3.5° apart.

(7) Iris is at opposition on May 29 with a magnitude 9.2. The asteroid will be in Ophiuchus, 3° from Antares, just under 6° from Saturn and 9.5° from Mars. The 5th magnitude star rho Oph will be just over 13 arc minutes from Iris. The star has two close companions easily visible in binoculars at magnitudes 6.8 and 7.3, each about 2.5 arc minutes from brighter star.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand