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The Moon in June

Dave North


“Six degrees of separation. That's all you get.”



June is when the highest elevation the Moon reaches is at new. Which is the worst possible time for an observer — there's nothing to see when it's new!

What is one to do in such a tragic time?

Two things.

First, this means the timing is pretty darn good for trying to see an early new Moon. Locally, new Moon is just a bit before noon on June 29, not too long after solstice. If you manage to catch a sliver of it near sunset that evening, you'll manage something on the order of a 9-10 hour old Moon.

Gotta be careful, though. Don't start fishing for it until the Sun has gone down or you might hurt your eyes and go blind and have to find another hobby. You will need a telescope to play this game.

Best technique is to note where the Sun goes down and take a look about six degrees above that point. Six degrees of separation. That's all you get. Which means you better have a very clear horizon ... right? Well, no. In fact, an unclear horizon (like the flat top of a building) is even better. That way the Sun is masked but the Moon is still a bit higher ... but it's not dark!

Get the idea? If you have a clear horizon but a good obstruction (and mobility, which means a Dob) you can actually hunt more than once.

Fun huh?

What else is there to do? Take a look at the eastern wonders of the Moon! Usually they're available (and nicely high in the sky) during the first few days after full Moon, but everything's all bright and lit up away from the terminator, which does have a different aesthetic.

They look completely different with the light from "the other side" and that means the first five or six days after new are particularly interesting in June. In this light, that's about as high as they're going to get.

The Gang Of Four (Langrenus, Vandelinus, Petavius and Furnerius) are particularly nifty in June. Plus, heck, the weather is good and sunset is way after most people's dinner time anyway.

Of course, if it's at its highest at the new phase, that means it's lowest at full ... which means this is kind of dark for a full Moon (no, not dark enough to go deep sky weaseling).

But there's an interesting effect: if you note how high the Moon is at sunset, it will roughly seem to be about the same height each night.

Getting a little practice hunting for detail while the Moon is a bit low isn't a bad idea, though. In a few months we're going to have basically the ideal opposition of Mars, and you're going to need the skill!


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