The Sky This Week for May 31 to June 4
A crescent Moon, the Big Dipper, and other cool things to look for in the sky this week.
By Richard Talcott
Wednesday, May 31
Neptune rises around 2 a.m. local daylight time and appears about 20° above the southeastern horizon as twilight commences. The distant world glows at magnitude 7.9, so you’ll need binoculars or a telescope to spot it. Fortunately, it lies near a brighter star that will guide you. This morning, Neptune stands 13′ southeast of 6th-magnitude 81 Aquarii. The star shines some five times brighter than the planet. You can confirm your sighting of Neptune through a telescope, which reveals the planet’s 2.3″-diameter disk and blue-gray color.
Thursday, June 1
First Quarter Moon occurs at 8:42 a.m. EDT. The half-lit orb rises around 1 p.m. local daylight time, appears highest in the south shortly before sunset, and sets around 2 a.m. The Moon spends this evening among the background stars of southern Leo the Lion.
Friday, June 2
Brilliant Venus rises in the east around 3:30 a.m. local daylight time. Although stunning in its own right, Venus serves as a guide to distant Uranus. The outer planet lies within 2° of its bright neighbor for the next three mornings. Target Venus with your binoculars and imagine it as the center of a clock’s face. You’ll find Uranus at the 10 o’clock position this morning, at 11 o’clock tomorrow, and at 12 o’clock on the 4th. You’ll need to look closely to spot magnitude 5.9 Uranus, which glows some 10,000 times fainter than Venus.
Saturday, June 3
Venus lies 46° west of the Sun today, its greatest elongation during this morning apparition. It rises approximately two hours before sunrise and appears brilliant in the east before dawn. The planet shines at magnitude –4.4 and stands nearly 15° above the horizon an hour before sunrise. When viewed through a telescope this morning, Venus’ disk spans 24″ and appears half-lit.
The waxing gibbous Moon passes 2° north of Jupiter this evening. The pair dominates the sky from shortly after sunset until well past midnight
Sunday, June 4
Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) should glow at 6th magnitude this week, bright enough to see through binoculars or a small telescope despite the Moon’s presence. It rides high in the south during late evening in the company of magnitude 0.0 Arcturus. The comet appears 5° east of the star both last night and tonight. This first-time visitor to the inner solar system makes its closest approach to Earth on June 5 and comes closest to the Sun just one week later.