The Solar System In June 2017

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

The southern winter solstice occurs on June 21. The sun reaches its most northerly declination at about 4 pm.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in May

Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

                    June  1  NZST                     June 30  NZST
       SUN: rise:   7.34am,  set:  5.02pm    rise:   7.45am,  set:  5.03pm
  Twilights     morning       evening            morning       evening
  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 nzst, as shown by guide)

          First quarter: June  2 at 12.42 am (June  1, 12:42 UT)
  Full moon:     June 10 at  1.10 am (June  9, 13:10 UT)
  Last quarter   June 17 at 11.33 pm (11:33 UT)
  New moon:      June 24 at  2.31 pm (02:31 UT)

The planets in June 2017

Jupiter, and later Saturn will be prominent in the evening sky. In the morning Mercury is easily visible for the first few days while Venus is obvious for several hours before sun-up. Mars is getting too close to the sun to see.

Mercury, in the morning sky, rises over an hour and three-quarters before the Sun on the 1st. At magnitude -0.4 it will be readily visible 30° to the north of east but at a fairly low altitude, near 10° above the horizon 50 minutes before sunrise. It is then in Aries and will be the brightest object in that direction.

The planet will move towards the Sun quite rapidly over the following days, so that by the 10th it will rise just over an hour before the Sun, so be noticeably lower. To compensate, it will brighten steadily, then up to -1.0. Mercury will be in Taurus from June 3.

After this, within a day or two, Mercury will be lost in the morning twilight. It reaches superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun on the 22nd when the planet will be nearly 200 million km, 1.32 AU from the Earth, some 46 million km beyond the Sun.

Following conjunction, Mercury becomes an evening object setting after the Sun, 50 minutes later at the end of June. However it is likely to be too low to see.

Venus remains an easy morning object during June. It rises about 4 hours before the Sun on the 1st, reducing to 3.5 hours earlier on the 30th. Venus is at its greatest elongation, 46° from the Sun, on the 4th. Also on that morning, Uranus will be 1.5° to the left of Venus.

The planet starts the month in Pisces, follows Mercury at an increasing distance across Gemini and ends the month in Taurus. Aldebaran will then be 16° to the lower right of Venus.

The moon passes Venus on the morning of the 21st when the crescent moon will be some 2.5° above the planet.

Mars, still nominally in the evening sky, will set an hour after the Sun on the 1st so is unlikely to be visible in the evening twilight. By the 30th it will set just over half an hour later than the Sun. Two evenings earlier Mars will be a degree above Mercury, but neither are likely to be visible.

Jupiter will remain a prominent evening object during June, although by the end of the month it sets at 1am, so will then be getting low by late evening. The planet is in Virgo all month with a magnitude -2, making it the brightest star like object in the evening sky.

The planet will show little movement through the stars during June, being stationary on the 10th. Following this it will start moving to the east.

The moon passes Jupiter early in the month. The two will be closest early afternoon on the 4th, closest before they rise for New Zealand. By 6pm the two will be just under 4° apart with the 76% lit moon about 4° below Jupiter. By midnight the two will be nearly 6° apart, rotation of the sky bring the moon to about the 2 o'clock position centred on Jupiter.

Saturn is at opposition on the 15th, so will then rise about the time the Sun sets, and will itself set close to sunrise. Thus the planet will be visible all night although very low to the east early evening. It remains in Ophiuchus moving slowly to the west.

Opposition will provide a good opportunity to view Saturn's ring system. It is now wide open as seen from the Earth, with the outer edge of the ring beyond Saturn appearing over the planet's north pole.

On the 10th the moon, only a few hours after being full, will be 5° below Saturn early evening. As with Jupiter 6 days earlier, the two will be closest early afternoon, before they rise.

Outer Planets

Uranus is a morning object rising just before 4 am on the 1st and at 2am on the 30th. The planet is in Pisces. At the beginning of the month it will be close to Venus, with the latter some over 2.7° above the fainter planet as seen on the morning of the 1st. They are closest on the morning of June 4, when Venus will be 2° to the right of Uranus at 6am. There will be one star, magnitude 4.3, closer to Venus than is Uranus at magnitude 5.9. The three are almost in line the following morning, with the star between the two planets. Uranus should be an easy binocular object.

Neptune rises a few minutes after midnight on the 1st and about 10.20 on the 30th. The planet, magnitude 7.9, spends the month in Aquarius. It is stationary on the 17th NZ time. A few hours earlier the moon will be close to Neptune. As seen from Dunedin, the moon will rise almost touching Neptune near the northern cusp of the moon. An occultation of Neptune is visible a few tens of kilometres off shore from Port Chalmers and to the east over much of the southern Pacific.

Pluto, magnitude 14.4, rises just after 7.30 pm on the 1st and at 5.40 pm on the 30th. The planet will remain in Sagittarius and will be 2° from the magnitude 2.9 star, pi Sgr, by the end of the month.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres, in Taurus, remains too close to the Sun to observe in June. It is at conjunction with the Sun on the 6th. At conjunction it is 2.71 AU beyond the Sun and 3.72 AU, 557 million km, from the Earth.

(4) Vesta is in Cancer early June but moves into Leo on the 18th. Its magnitude will be 8.2. The asteroid sets at 9.20 pm on the 1st, nearly an hour earlier on the 30th.

(6) Hebe, magnitude 9.4, starts the month in Serpens some 25 arc-minutes from the star zeta Ser, magnitude 4.6. It moves away from the star crossing into Ophiuchus on the 4th. It rises at 7.23 pm on the 1st, just before 5pm on the 30th. It is at opposition mid month.

(10) Hygiea brightens from magnitude 9.9 on the 1st to 9.2 on the 30th . It is at opposition on the 30th. On the 27th and 28th the asteroid will pass through the northerly outskirts of the bright globular cluster M22 in Sagittarius, at its closest Hygiea will be about 8 arc-minutes from the cluster's centre.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand

The Solar System In May 2017

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

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in May

Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

                    May  1  NZST                     May 30  NZST
       SUN: rise:   7.05am,  set:  5.30pm    rise:   7.33am,  set:  5.03pm
  Twilights     morning       evening            morning       evening
  Civil:    starts: 6.39am,  ends: 5.56pm    starts: 7.05am,  ends: 5.31pm
  Nautical: starts: 6.06am,  ends: 6.29pm    starts: 6.31am,  ends: 6.08pm
  Astro:    starts: 5.34am,  ends: 7.01pm    starts: 5.58am,  ends: 6.39pm

May phases of the moon (times nzst, as shown by guide)

          First quarter: May  3 at  2.47 pm (2:47 UT)
  Full moon:     May 11 at  9.43 am (May 10, 21:43 UT)
  Last quarter   May 19 at 12.33 pm (00:33 UT)
  New moon:      May 26 at  7.45 am (May 25, 19:45 UT)

Occultation Of Regulus

A lunar occultation of Regulus on May 4 is visible from New Zealand and Australia. The disappearance is at the ?dark? limb of the moon so readily observable in binoculars. It will be just before sunset at Perth in Western Australia but should be observable there. Elsewhere, further east, the occultation will be after the Sun has set.

The reappearance from occultation will be at the sunlit limb of the moon, making it a little more difficult to observe and time accurately.

Disappearance times in New Zealand range from 10.40 pm in the southwest to 10.53 pm at East Cape. The corresponding range of reappearance times is 11.47 pm to 11.58 pm. Observers should generate their local predictions using Dave herald?s Occult program to obtain precise time predictions for their own locality.

The planets in May 2017

Jupiter will be prominent in the evening sky with Saturn appearing later to the east. Mars is getting too close to the Sun for easy observation. Mercury will be at its morning sky best for the year in the 2nd part of the month, well placed an hour before sunrise. It will very much outshone by Venus some way above it.

Mercury, in the morning sky, rises 90 minutes before the Sun on May 1 and nearly 2 hours earlier than the Sun at the end of the month. With a low altitude and a magnitude 2.4 the planet will not be readily observable at the beginning of May.

Things rapidly improve during the first half of May as Mercury brightens and moves further from the Sun. The planet reaches its greatest elongation, 26° west of the Sun mid month. On the morning of May 18 at 6.20 am, hour before sunrise at Wellington, Mercury will be nearly 13° above the horizon with a magnitude 0.4. Venus will be some 19° above and a little to the left of the fainter planet. The middle of May will give the best opportunity to observe Mercury in the morning sky this year. By the end of May the planet will be brighter at magnitude -0.3 but getting little lower.

Mercury stars May in Pisces, it crosses a corner of Cetus between May 19 and 22 before entering Aries. On the morning of May 24 a thin crescent moon will be 3.5° above Mercury

Venus is an easy to find morning object in May. It rises over 3 hours before the Sun on the 1st increasing to almost 4 hours earlier by the 31st. Venus is following Mercury across Pisces and ends May quite close to the position in the stars that Mercury was in at the beginning of the month.

On the morning of the 23rd the crescent moon will be about 3.5° to the lower right of Venus. On 31st, Venus will also be 3.5° above Uranus, so the two will be visible in a 5° binocular field.

Mars slowly gets lower in the early evening sky. At magnitude 1.6 to 1.7 and a low altitude it will be a difficult object in the twilight. It sets 75 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, an hour after the Sun on the 31st.

On the evening of the 27th a very thin crescent moon will be about 4.5° above Mars. But at 5.45 pm when the Sun is only 8° below the horizon, Mars? altitude at Wellington will be slightly less than 4°

Jupiter will be a prominent object throughout the evening sky following its opposition at the beginning of April. Early evening in May will find the planet just under 10° to the left of the first magnitude star Spica, alpha Virginis. Some 8 hours later the anticlockwise rotation of the sky will bring Spica to a position directly above Jupiter.

The nearly full moon will be 5° to the lower right of Jupiter on May 8.

Saturn will rise at 8 pm on the 1st of May and a good 2 hours earlier by the 31st. It brightens slightly during the month from 0.3 to 0.1 making it the brightest object to the east. There are a number of the brighter, 2nd magnitude stars in Sagittarius some 10 to 20° to its Saturn?s left.

The planet itself starts the month in Sagittarius. It moves only slowly to the west through the stars, less than 2° during the month. Even so this is sufficient to take it into Ophiuchus mid month.

Currently Saturn is 22° south of the equator. As a result when due north it will be very high in NZ skies. This will be about 3.30 am early May, advancing to 1.30 late May.

The moon, a little past full, will be some 7° from Saturn on the evenings of May 13 and 14. The position of the moon with reference to Saturn on the two night will be very different. Moon and planet are closest about 10 am on the morning while they are below the horizon for NZ.

Outer Planets

Uranus begins to move up into the morning sky shortly before sunrise, following its conjunction with the Sun mid April. At the beginning of May Uranus will be close to Mercury but too low for easy observation. At the end of May a much brighter marker, Venus, will be 3° above the outer planet. By then Uranus will rise just before 4 am, with Venus rising 15 minutes earlier. So at 6.30 am, an hour before sunrise, the two will be at a comfortable 25° altitude.

Neptune rises early into the morning sky, soon after 2am on May 1 and 2 hours earlier on May 31. The planet remains in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9, moving only half a degree during the month. On the 1st it will be 18.5° above and a little left of Venus.

Pluto, magnitude 14.4, is moving into the evening sky rising at 9.40 pm on the 1st, 2 hours earlier on the 31st. It will remain in Sagittarius about 2.5° from the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres, in Taurus is too close to the Sun to observe in May. It is at conjunction early June.

(4) Vesta is in Cancer during May with a magnitude changing from 8.0 to 8.2. On the 1st it sets about 10.20pm. By the 31st it will be setting about an hour earlier. The moon will be just over 6° above Vesta in May 2. It will be in a similar position again, compared to Vesta, on the 30th but about half a degree closer.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand