A Partial Lunar Eclipse and Spectacular Saturn

With the partial solar eclipse taking place on May 20 it seems only fitting to back it up with a partial lunar eclipse.

A little known fact is that lunar and solar eclipses always come in pairs, two weeks apart. This partial lunar eclipse is going to take place very early in the morning, starting at 2:59 a.m. on Monday, June 4.

You will need an observing site that offers an excellent view to the southwest, as this partial lunar eclipse takes place close to the horizon. I have run this event through my favourite computer program, Starry Night Enthusiast, and we should be able to view this eclipse until at least 4:15 a.m.

This means that we will be able to see the beginning of the eclipse and mid-totality. As for viewing the end of thethe eclipse, this will depend on your view to the southwest.

During this eclipse the moon will be 37 percent covered at mid-totality, which takes place at 4:04 a.m. and ends at 5:05 a.m. This will make a fabulous photo opportunity with the eclipse taking place so close to the horizon.

All you have to do is add an old fence, building or mountain, and you have all the ingredients for a most memorable picture.

Get up early to see and take pictures of this event—the next time we will see an umbral eclipse will not be until April 15, 2014.

As for our current night skies you probably have noticed that Venus is sinking lower into the horizon each evening, soon to disappear. Our next sighting of Venus will be on June 5 as Venus passes in front of the Sun (also known as Venus Transit).

Through a telescope you will notice that the phase, or crescent shape is getting smaller in size, even though it remains brilliant in the Yukon Night Skies.

In the constellation of Leo, you will find the planet Mars. As Mars is moving away from us it becoming very faint. Even in a large telescope there is very little detail to be seen.

If you are lucky you might get a last chance to see a few dark markings and the shrinking northern polar ice cap. By the end of June, Mars will be low in the southwest by nightfall.

The brightest planet in the evening sky is the ringed gas giant, Saturn. Everyone’s favourite planet can be found in the constellation of Virgo in the southeastern sky at nightfall.

After spending the last couple of years viewing Saturn’s rings edge on, it is good to see the rings face on.

In small to medium aperture telescopes, there are also four moons visible as small pinpoints of light. They are called Titan, Rhea, Dioneand Tethys.

On May 22 a two-day old crescent moon will be resting below Venus, making for another great photo opportunity. This will take place in the early evening sky low to the horizon. Throw in a mountain, tree or farmhouse and you have all the makings for a great picture.

Another early evening event takes place on May 28 when the first quarter moon rests six degrees below Mars. Though Mars is not much more than a medium-bright star in appearance, it still makes an interesting sight.

May 31 brings the moon two degrees below the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo, and then six degree above that is the planet Saturn. This takes place in the evening sky, and also makes for a fun photo opportunity.

At this time of year, spring is quickly turning to summer, and the hours spent at the eyepiece are dramatically diminishing.

I went out the other night to see some northern lights and they were having a hard time trying to be noticed in the early morning light at 4 a.m. Now considering it is not dark until 11 p.m., that gives you about three hours of reasonably dark viewing.

Don’t forget the Venus Transit takes place on Tuesday, June 5 so head on down to the S.S. Klondike and take a look for yourself. The start of the Venus Transit is a few minutes after 3 p.m. and lasts for six hours.

Some of us from the local astronomy club are going to be there with our telescopes. Remember this is an event that you will only see once in your lifetime!

Clear skies!

James “Deep Sky” Cackette can be reached at [email protected]. See his photo adventures on Facebook at Yukon Night Skies.

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