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June: exploring the June Depths: work upward through the scorpion, the scales, the snake, and the strongman.

SUMMER IS ARRIVING in the Northern Hemisphere, and our sky map on the facing page shows all the signs of it. In the east and northeast, the entire Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair has risen into good view. (Turn the map around so its "Facing East" horizon is level on the bottom.) A quintessential summer star, orange-red Antares, is already well up in the south-southeast.

But let's not be hasty. The constellations that are highest this month contain no such brilliant stars, but they're astronomically and mythologically interesting.

Let's start moderately low in the south with the zodiacal constellation Libra, the Scales. In ancient times these stars formed the huge claws of Scorpius, the Scorpion, until the Romans made them into the Scales of Justice. The two most interesting are Alpha (a) and Beta (P) Librae, or Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali (from the Arabic for "southern claw" and "northern claw"). Alpha is a wide double star for sharp eyes and is easy in binoculars.

Above Libra is the western half of Serpens, the Snake. This part is known as Serpens Caput, "snake head." It contains colorful Alpha Serpentis or Unukalhai, "neck of the snake," which marks the way to a telescopic wonder: the globular star cluster M5.

The eastern part of the constellation is Serpens Cauda, "snake tail," which is separated from the head and neck by the constellation Ophiuchus--a legendary healer holding the snake, the Greek symbol of medicine.

Above Serpens Caput, now practically overhead (near the zenith, the center of the chart), are two fascinating constellations: Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown) and Hercules, the legendary strongman. Their most interesting parts are located on a line from bright Arcturus to Vega. Corona Borealis is a semicircle, adorned with the constellation's Alpha star, 2nd-magnitude Gemma (also known as Alphecca). Hercules is best known for the globular cluster M13. A 6-inch telescope shows M13's fuzzy glow starting to resolve into pinpricks, just a smattering of its hundreds of thousands of stars. The globular M92, not far away between Hercules's feet, is almost as grand.

Planets in June

Mercury and Venus are quite low in the afterglow of sunset. About 40 to 60 minutes after sundown, look for them above the west-northwest horizon. You're likely to spot bright Venus first, even though it's lower. Look for little Mercury a few degrees to Venus's upper left in the first half of June. That's when Mercury is best seen, though it's fading daily.

But also take a look on June 18th, when the two planets appear closest together (2[degrees]). Binoculars will help.

Mars is hidden deep in sunrise.

Jupiter is out of sight behind the glow of the Sun.

Saturn (between Virgo and Libra) glows highest in the south at dusk, and lower in the southwest later in the evening. You'll find Spica, similarly bright, shining to Saturn's right or lower right by 12[degrees], a bit more than a fist-width at arm's length.

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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Previous Article:May: the springtime dipper on high: whenever spring flowers bloom, the big dipper floats over them at dusk.
Next Article:July: scorpion and dragon: Scorpius and Draco are now at their highest in the south and north.

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