Venus will sink into the evening twilight during the first few days of June, but it will then provide a rare treat when it moves between us and the sun. Saturn will fade into the sun’s afterglow in the middle of the month, and Mars will be low at dusk and at its dimmest. That will leave Jupiter to dominate the western sky.

June 1-2: Look for Venus very low and right of west at 8:30 p.m. (All times are given for the Lewiston-Auburn area.) With 7-by-50 binoculars, it should be easy to observe the crescent shape of Venus, which will be quite slender.

The last time it was possible to observe a transit of Venus, when the planet is directly between the earth and the sun, was in 1882. We should try for it this time. However, looking directly at the sun without a proper filter will cause painless and permanent damage to your eyesight, so don’t do it. ( Sunglasses, overexposed film or similar darkening items are NOT safe.) If you project an image of the sun onto a screen, then a filter is not necessary. More information is available at many Web sites including http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/sunearthday.

June 8: The transit, which begins at 1 a.m. (EDT), will be more than half over as the sun rises about 5 a.m. Venus will be visible in silhouette as a black dot in the lower right part of the sun’s face. This “extra sun spot” will reach the sun’s edge at 7 a.m., and Venus will clear the sun at 7:25.

June 11-20: We will have skies unbothered by moonlight when twilight ends about 10 p.m. (New moon is on the 17th.) This will give us an opportunity to enjoy crisp views of a lovely star cluster using 7-by-50 binoculars. The tail of Leo is marked by a triangle of stars, and it will be above Jupiter, by far the brightest “star” in the sky. The star cluster, called Coma Berenices, will be located above the Lion’s tail.

June 20: Our summer solstice will occur at 8:57 p.m., giving us the shortest night of the year. This will also be the most northerly sun, and it will heat the atmosphere like crazy. We will have to endure another long hot summer.

June 19: At dusk, a very slender crescent will feature Pollux just one finger to its upper right and Mars half a hand to its left. The following evening, Mars will be more than half a hand below and right of the thin crescent.

June 23: Brilliant Jupiter will sit just one finger below and left of the moon, and they will be bright enough to show in twilight. With Saturn too low now for a decent image, Jupiter will be the best target for telescope viewing this month.

We have plenty of players in the sky show this month, with stars, planets and the moon. And as Venus is changing from “evening star” to “morning star,” it will produce an embarrassing black zit on the face of the sun.

Roger Ptak is professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and author of the popular astronomy book “Sky Stories.” He and his wife now live in Northport. His e-mail address is dptak//fermi.bgsu.edu/~ptak/star/star.html.


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