Science

See NASA’s New Mission To Orbit The Moon Launch As Summer Stars Rise: What You Can See In The Night Sky This Week

Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.

What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: June 6-12, 2022

This week is a good one to go Moon-gazing. With our natural satellite in space waxing towards its full “Strawberry Supermoon” phase next week the night sky will get increasingly Moon-filled. Although the glare will get worse as the week wears on, try putting a pair of binoculars on the lunar surface to see its craters and ancient, dark lava fields, called mare.

Monday, June 6, 2022: NASA’s CAPSTONE Mission could launch

Today sees the launch window open for Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, which will send NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) to orbit the Moon.

Launching from the Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, CAPSTONE will test the stability of a new orbit around the Moon (a near-rectilinear halo orbit, if you need to know) that NASA wants to use for its Lunar Gateway space station.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022: First Quarter Moon and a SpaceX launch to the ISS

Tonight is Last Quarter Moon, when the Moon is half-lit and rising after midnight. Scheduled to launch at 11:25 a.m. EDT today from Kennedy Space Center, Florida is the SpaceX Dragon CRS-25 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Thursday, June 9, 2022: The Moon and Spica

Tonight in the southern sky come nightfall you’ll see a 75%-illuminated Moon just 5º from Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Spica is the 16th brightest star and about 260 light-years distant.

Sunday, June 12, 2022: The Moon and Antares

A near-full 97% Moon will tonight shine just above bright star Antares in the constellation of Scorpius. A red supergiant star and the 15th brightest star visible, Antares is 555 light-years away. Its sits just above the bright center of our Milky Way galaxy (though with such a bright Moon you’ll have a difficult job finding it even if you’re under a dark sky).

Constellation of the week: Lyra, the Harp

This small diamond-shaped constellation is home to Vega, the star that all others are judged by. The fifth brightest star in the night sky and about 25 light-years away, this blue star is a yardstick for judging the apparent magnitude, or brightness, of stars. If a star is dimmer than Vega, it gets a (+) figure, and if it’s brighter than Vega it gets a (-) figure.

Together with Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila, Vega helps form the “Summer Triangle,” a seasonal asterism (a recognisable shape, not an official constellation) that rises in late spring and sets in fall. Watch the Summer Triangle move higher each night over the next few months, and you’ll have an anchor in the summer night sky for the rest of your life.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.


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