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5 Sky Events This Week: Mercury Rising, Moon Meets the Lion’s Heart

Mercury, Venus and Mars are rocky planets similar to Earth and will be on display in the evening skies this weekCredit: JPL/NASA

Mercury, Venus and Mars share the inner solar system with Earth and will be on display in the evening skies this week. Credit: JPL/NASA

This week skywatchers get a chance to watch the moon strike a pose with bright stars while the most elusive of naked-eye planets puts on its best sky show of the year.

Moon poses with Venus. About 30 minutes after sunset on Monday, June 10, skywatchers around the world can look towards the very low northwest for the razor-thin crescent moon to the left of Venus. Look carefully above the goddess of love for fainter Mercury forming a celestial triangle with the moon.

Surprise meteor shower? In early morning hours of Tuesday, June 11, a rare meteor shower called the Gamma Delphinids may produce a very brief outburst of activity for North American observers around 4:38 am EDT, with rates up to 60 shooting stars per hour.

While there is no guarantee, the best bet to observe any activity will be to find a dark location away from city lights and face the southern sky where the meteors will appear to radiate out from their namesake constellation, Delphinius (the dolphin) before local dawn.  Check out our full observing guide to the Gamma Delphinids.

Mercury at its best. On Wednesday, June 12, Mercury will be at its farthest possible separation from the sun in our evening sky for the entire year, positioned at its very best for mid-northern latitude observers. Riding high in the northwest at dusk, away from the glare of dusk, Mercury will be easy to find even for a novice because Venus acts as a convenient guide, appearing less than 5 degrees below (equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arm’s length).

Train even a small telescope at high power and Mercury will reveal that its disk is about 40% illuminated and looks like a miniature version of the crescent moon.

Moon joins lion’s Heart. Look towards the high southwest evening sky on Thursday, June 13, for the crescent moon hanging below the brightest star of constellation Leo, the lion.

Regulus marks the heart of the lion and lies 78 light years away. A hot blue-white star, it is about 3.5 times larger than our Sun and, at 300 million years old, is an adolescent when it comes to star lifetimes.

By the next evening, June 14, notice that the moon now has slid to the lower left of Regulus. Meanwhile southern hemisphere observers will see the crescent moon to the immediate left of the brilliant blue-white star.

after nightfall on June 14th the moon will near the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the lion. Credit: Starry Night Software/A.Fazekas

after nightfall on June 14th the moon will near the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the lion. Credit: Starry Night Software/A.Fazekas

Mars meets Aldebaran. As an observing challenge on Saturday, June 15, try hunting down the Red Planet at local dawn in the very low eastern sky near Aldebaran, the red eye of Taurus, the bull constellation.

Start your hunt about an hour before your local sunrise and look for Aldebaran to the lower right of Mars (upper right in southern hemisphere). The planet-star pair will appear higher in the sky–and therefore brighter and easier to spot–the more southerly your observing location. Binoculars will help in tracking down both objects.

While both morning stars shine with similar brightness and orange tinges, they lie at very different distances. Mars is currently stationed 369 million kilometers (229 million miles) from Earth, while the dying red giant star is a respectable 65 light years off.

Tell us—what amazing sky phenomena have you seen lately?

Comments

  1. Francisco Lopez
    Magdalena de Kino Sonora Mex
    October 13, 2013, 8:43 pm

    In the outskirts of Magdalena, we have a clear blue sky, where you can actually see the planet Venus in the daytime.

  2. Francisco Lopez
    Magdalena de Kino Sonora Mex
    October 13, 2013, 8:40 pm

    Just to say, that there is a place nearby, it is so dark when it is a moonless night that you can see millions of stars, it is frightennig to look up and see clouds of bright stars, that seem that they are going to fall on you. in case that someone wants to see this, the best time is in winter time, and this place is southeast of Nogales Sonora, the place is Mascareñas Creek in Northern Mexico.

  3. igor zlukta
    zap nd
    August 18, 2013, 11:53 pm

    on the evening july 29,while watching the meteor shower ,I observed a pulsar light-up just above Polaris.Lasting about 10 sec.;at the same time it flared-up ,three other stars ,to the lower left also appeared; all four dimmed out at the same time. Any ideas what they are or have ever been seen before?

  4. Raitis
    Riga, Latvia
    June 21, 2013, 2:45 am

    I saw a ‘bolide’ night before last night around midnight. It made a difference as main reason for watching was to see Venus and Mercury. Clouds where so dense that we newer saw Mercury and only got glimpse of Venus…
    I was more in luck on May 27 – https://raitis.misa.chomi.lv/?cat=5

  5. Gala
    June 13, 2013, 4:41 am

    Hello! Thank you for this. I am an avid stargazer. When i was in college, my friends and i would often go to our university’s observatory where the resident astronomers were only too happy to assist us. There, we found out that it is quite ‘painful’ to gaze at a full moon through a telescope, haha. I am fortunate to live in a residential area where there is still darkness at night, and we have a terrace where i can lie on my back. It’s a very cheap destressor at the end of a tiring day! Occasionally i would climb our neighbor’s roof, heheh. The heavens do declare the glory of God. Keep it up! Godbless.

  6. Yoshi
    Lkipie
    June 12, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Can’t wait to see Mercury!

  7. 0mar chaalia
    tunis
    June 12, 2013, 3:19 pm

    sob7an allah

  8. Nick
    Amsterdam
    June 12, 2013, 7:43 am

    an airplain…. thnx light polution :/

  9. Milla
    Earth
    June 12, 2013, 3:18 am

    On June 23 there will be a Super Moon. I’m watching out for that one!

  10. Jarren Wong
    Brunei Darussalam
    June 11, 2013, 7:52 pm

    I hope I can see Venus because when you’re in brunei it is very rare to see these kind of things!

  11. Adam Wilson
    Larkhall, Scotland
    June 11, 2013, 7:36 pm

    I live in Scotland and have for the past week or so been observing the most unusual orb in the sky. I have, in fact, been seeing it during daylight hours. I have heard its name only in ancient mythology and texts from foreign lands, but I believe it’s name to be – The Sun. Most odd.

  12. Movie Girl
    June 11, 2013, 6:05 pm

    Will any of these events be visible from Europe (Bosnia&Herzegovina) and what is the difference between time zones?

    • Andrew Fazekas
      June 13, 2013, 11:26 am

      Indeed, these events are visible throughout the world with some events only visible in the northern hemisphere. When I refer to specific times, unless I note otherwise, they are your local times.

  13. Patrik
    Schweden
    June 11, 2013, 5:20 pm

    The same day i will eat pancakes on my marble plate!

  14. Luis F.Granados
    Guatemala
    June 11, 2013, 2:24 pm

    Thanks for all the information you share with us.
    I have a question related to this phenomenum of the moon,venus and other planets.
    What is the north of our solar system?
    Iin the galaxy where it belongs what is the location of it ?

    • Andrew Fazekas
      June 13, 2013, 11:43 am

      Looking towards galactic north we peer out of our own Milky Way galaxy and can get fairly clear views of other galaxies in the universe. Our solar system is located approximately 30,000 light years from the central hub of our spiral galaxy and is sitting on the inner edge of the Orion arm.

      Here is a cool diagram that shows our sun’s location: http://d1jqu7g1y74ds1.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/milkywaymap.jpg

  15. MOHAMMED
    AMMAN
    June 11, 2013, 11:26 am

    SOOOOOOOOOOOO NICE

  16. Jamie
    Spain
    June 11, 2013, 11:05 am

    Maria S. If it appeared slow moving then it could have been an Iridium communications satellite reflecting sunlight at you. The event is known as an Iridium flare. There are smartphone apps that alert you when one is about to happen at your location.

  17. Lydia Wagih
    Egypt
    June 11, 2013, 6:05 am

    Yesterday I saw Venus beside the moon , it was very clear :)

    • Andrew Fazekas
      June 11, 2013, 10:43 am

      Indeed that’s such a striking sight! Look this evening again at the same time and you will notice the moon will be slightly higher in the sky – with two bright stars to it’s right – Pollux and Castor, the Gemini twins.

  18. Samerle Burleigh
    June 11, 2013, 12:42 am

    Amazing! Life is so busy I love to take time out to just look at the beauty of nature around me. My problems seem so trivial in comparison to the awesome wonders around me!

  19. jorge garcia saquin
    phillipines
    June 10, 2013, 3:09 pm

    am always a big fan of all nat’l geo’s features and edition. keep-up the good works and god bless…

  20. Maria S.
    Dunrobin, Ontario
    June 10, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Around 10pm Sunday June 9th my daughter and i saw a bright light travelling up and to the left for approx. 4-5 seconds before it disappeared. It was in the eastern sky. Was it a meteor?

    • Andrew Fazekas
      June 10, 2013, 3:42 pm

      From the description it appears that this may have been a bright meteor astronomers call a ‘bolide’. These space rocks can be anywhere from the size of a golfball to a living room sofa. They can look like a fireball with a lingering smoke trail that can last for minutes after the meteor has burned up. Sometimes fragments can actually even make it to the ground.