The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy also known as M83 is a barred spiral galaxy approximately 14.7 million light-years distant in the eastern section of the largest constellation of all, Hydra. It's one of the closest barred spirals, a showpiece galaxy and the finest barred spiral in the sky. With an apparent magnitude of +7.5, M83 is visible with 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars, appearing under dark skies as a patch of light with a brighter centre. It was discovered by Nicholas Louis de Lacaille at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa on February 23, 1752 and added by Charles Messier to his catalogue on February 17, 1781.
With a declination of 30 degrees south, M83 is best seen from Southern Hemisphere or equatorial regions during the months of April, May and June. For mid-latitude northern hemisphere observers, the galaxy can be a difficult object; it's the southernmost galaxy in Messier's list and therefore never climbs particularly high above the southern horizon.
Despite being a relatively bright galaxy M83 can be tricky to locate as it's positioned in a part of the sky devoid of bright stars. It can be found by locating stars γ Hya (mag. +3.0) and π Hya (mag. +3.3). Imagine a line connecting these two stars and then move along the line until just short of the halfway mark. Located about 6 degrees south of this point is M83.
M59 is an elliptical galaxy in Virgo that's a member of the Virgo cluster that was discovered by Johann Gottfried Koehler on April 11, 1779 when observing a comet in that region of sky. On the same day, he also discovered neigbouring galaxy M60, a slightly larger and brighter version of M59. Also comet chasing at that time was Charles Messier who independently found both galaxies four days after Koehler. During his search, Messier also discovered M58 another nearby Virgo cluster galaxy that was missed by Koehler. Of the three, Messier described M60 as the brightest galaxy with M59 and M58 being fainter and of similar magnitude.
At apparent magnitude +9.8, M59 is a challenging small telescope object. It can be spotted with small 80mm (3.1-inch) scopes or even large binoculars, but dark skies are a must. Even then it only appears as a hazy patch, that's better seen with larger amateur instruments.
M59 is located 60 Million light years distant. It displays an apparent size of 5.4 x 3.7 arc minutes, which corresponds to a spatial diameter of 95,000 light-years. Despite been one of the larger elliptical galaxies in the Virgo cluster, M59 is considerably less massive and less luminous than the other great cluster ellipticals, M49, M60 and M87.
A good proportion of the Messier Virgo Cluster galaxies can be found along or near an imaginary line connecting Denebola (β Leo - mag. +2.1) to Vindemiatrix (ε Vir - mag. +2.8). M59 is no exception and it's positioned about 5 degrees from Vindemiatrix. Located 0.4 degrees east of M59 is M60 with M58 one degree west of M59.
The galaxies are best seen during the months of March, April and May.
The Southern Delta Aquariids is a strong and fairly consistent meteor shower that takes place from July 12th to August 23rd. This year, peak activity occurs on July 29th and is predicted to reach a maximum Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 16 meteors per hour. The stream is generally regarded as producing faint meteors, void of fireballs which move across the sky at slow to medium velocity. The shower is best seen from the tropics and southern hemisphere, upon where the radiant appears higher in the sky, compared to northern temperate latitudes.
The Southern Delta Aquariids is the brighter part of the Delta Aquariid meteor shower; the Northern Delta Aquariids being the weaker stream. The period of activity of the northern shower is similar to that of its southern partner - from July 15th to August 25th (peak: August 6th) - although it's ZHR is a paltry 4 meteors per hour.
Discovery and Parent Body
Lieutenant Colonel G. L. Tupman, a member of the Italian Meteoric Association made the first detailed recordings of Delta Aquariids meteors between July 27th and August 6th, 1870. The streams were then unidentified, but by plotting data from 65 meteors, he was to a reasonable degree of accuracy able to determine the general area of the radiant.
Between 1926 and 1933, New Zealander Ronald McIntosh improved the position of the radiant based on a greater number of observations. A few years later in 1938, Cuno Hoffmeister founder of Sonneberg Observatory, along with his German colleagues were able to first record the northern part of the stream. It was astronomer Mary Almond, in 1952, who finally confirmed the presence of the two separate radiants.
The parent body of the Southern Delta Aquariids is uncertain. However, comet 96P/Machholz or comet Machholz as it's often referred to is a possible candidate. This Jupiter family comet was discovered in 1986 by amateur astronomer Donald Machholz using just a pair of 130mm binoculars. It has an orbital period of 5.2 years.
The shower radiants are located in the faint zodiac constellation of Aquarius, which is positioned about 30 degrees to the south and southwest of the "Square of Pegasus". The southern radiant is just over 3 degrees west of star Skat (δ Aqr - mag. +3.3), with the northern radiant a further 14 degrees to the north. The brightest star in the surrounding sky is first magnitude Fomalhaut (α PsA - mag. +1.2) in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. Fomalhaut is positioned about 14 degrees south-southeast of the southern radiant.
After passing perihelion on July 2nd, Comet Jacques (C/2014 E2) has now moved into the early morning sky. On July 22nd it shone at magnitude +6.3, therefore just beyond naked eye visibility but bright enough to be seen with binoculars and small telescopes. The comet is now slowly decreasing in magnitude but will remain bright enough to be visible with binoculars and small scopes for many weeks to come.
Location and star chart
Jacques spends the last week of July and the first part of August moving in a northwest direction through the constellation of Auriga. It then passes into Perseus on August 5th remaining there until the 15th, before moving into the sparse dim constellation of Camelopardalis. During this time, it's expected Jacques will fade in brightness from magnitude +6.3 to +7.0. For Northern Hemisphere observers, the comet is now well placed for observation. It's visible towards the east in the morning sky, improving in latitude as the month progress. From Southern Hemisphere latitudes Jacques is visible very low towards the eastern sky during morning twilight at the end of July, but is then quickly lost to the bright glare of the Sun and won't be visible again until early September.
The finder chart below shows the positions of Jacques from July 19 to August 10, 2014.
M55 is a globular cluster located in eastern Sagittarius towards its border with Capricornus and Microscopium. At magnitude +6.7, it's beyond naked eye visibility but bright enough to be seen with binoculars. However, it's not an easy globular to locate since there aren't any particular bright stars nearby. With a declination of -30 degrees, M55 is one of the more southerly objects in Messier's catalogue and therefore especially difficult for observers based at northern temperate latitudes. It's best seen from southern or equatorial latitudes during the months of June, July and August.
M55 was discovered by Nicholas Louis de Lacaille on June 16, 1752 while observing from South Africa. Charles Messier then catalogued it on July 24, 1778. From Paris, Messier had difficulty finding M55, it took him 14 years to spot it!
Finding M55 can be challenging. One method is to begin with the "teapot" asterism of Sagittarius. Start by locating stars Kaus Media (δ Sgr - mag. +2.7) and Ascella (ζ Sgr - mag. +2.6). Then imagine a line from Kaus Media moving eastwards towards and passing through Ascella. Curve this line for another 17 degrees to arrive at M55.
Mercury passed through inferior conjunction last month (June 19th). However, it moves fast and only a couple of weeks later is once again in view. On July 1st, the planet appears low down in the morning sky above the northeastern horizon from southern latitudes, remaining visible until about the third week of the month. From northern temperate latitudes, Mercury is not suitably placed for observation this month.
Mercury is best placed around July 12th, the date it reaches greatest western elongation (21 degrees). From latitude 35S (approx. equal to Sydney, Cape Town and Santiago), the nearest planet to the Sun will shine at magnitude +0.4 and appear 8 degrees above the northeastern horizon, 45 minutes before sunrise. It should be noted that once past greatest elongation, Mercury continues to brighten as it draws into the Sun. Finding Mercury is always easier when there's a bright marker nearby. Such an opportunity exists from approx. July 14th to 18th when Mercury can be found about 6 degrees below brilliant Venus (mag. -3.8).
Venus continues to be visible as a brilliant object low down above the northeastern horizon during July, rising about 2 hours before the Sun at the start of July, but less by months end.
As the month progresses, Venus fades marginally from mag. -3.9 to -3.8, which is at the bottom end of its magnitude range. However, it's still far brighter than any other planet. On July 2nd, Venus passes 4 degrees north of Aldebaran (α Tau - mag +0.9) and later in the month (24th) the waning crescent Moon passes 4 degrees south of Venus.
Earth reaches aphelion on July 4th at 1.017 AU (approx. 152.1 million km or 94.5 million miles) from the Sun. This corresponds to the greatest distance of the planet from the Sun during its yearly orbit.
Mars resumed direct motion in May and is currently moving southeasterly through the constellation of Virgo. The rapid motion of the planet against the "fixed" background stars can be easily observed during July. At the start of the month the "Red planet" is positioned 6 degrees northwest of Spica (mag. +1.0). On July 12th, it passes 1.4 degrees north of the star and by months end Mars has moved more than 8 degrees away.
The distance between Earth and Mars increases from 148 to 178 million kilometres (92 to 111 million miles) during July. Hence the planets brightness decreases from mag. 0.0 to +0.4 and its apparent diameter from 9.5 to 7.9 arc seconds.
On July 6th the first quarter Moon passes 0.2 degrees north of Mars, with an occultation visible from South America (1:22 UT).
Jupiter reaches solar conjunction on July 24th. The planet may be glimpsed from southern and equatorial latitudes just after sunset during the first few days of the month, low down above the west-northwest horizon. However, even at magnitude -1.8 it won't be long before the giant planet is lost to the bright twilight glare. From northern temperate latitudes, Jupiter isn't visible at all this month.
Saturn remains a well-placed evening object in Libra. The planet begins the month moving retrograde before reaching its secondary stationary point on July 20th. Following this direct motion is once again resumed. To the naked eye Saturn hardly moves during July, appearing like a "fixed" off-white star positioned 2.5 degrees northeast of beautiful double star Zubenelgenubi (α Lib - mag. +2.75).
The planet is visible as soon as it's dark enough towards the south-southeast from northern temperate latitudes or towards the northeast from southern temperate latitudes. It remains visible until after midnight. Saturn fades slightly from magnitude +0.2 to +0.4 with its apparent diameter shrinking from 17.9 to 17.1 arc seconds as the month progress.
On July 8th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes 0.4 degrees south of Saturn with an occultation visible from Argentina and Chile (2:25 UT).
Uranus (mag. +5.9) is now well placed for observation amongst the stars of Pisces. Although the planet was not discovered until telescopic times it's actually visible to the naked eye, albeit faintly. This is a challenge and if you manage to achieve it, you will join a small select group of people. However, essential for the task is a dark moonless site, good seeing conditions and a good star chart to point to the exact planet location.
At the start of July from northern temperate locations, Uranus rises 4 hours before sunrise and by months end is visible from about midnight. The visibility period from locations further south is even better with Uranus visible before midnight by months end.
The planet is positioned 15 degrees south and 20 degrees east of the centre of the "Great Square of Pegasus" and 2 degrees south of star ε Psc (mag. +4.3).
On July 21st, the waning crescent Moon passes 2 degrees north of Uranus.
Neptune (mag. +7.8) is moving retrograde in Aquarius as it heads towards opposition in August. Although observers may be able to spot Uranus with the naked eye they have no chance do the same with Neptune, it's far too faint. However, the planet is relatively easy to spot binoculars.
Neptune is currently located about 30 degrees southwest of the Great Square of Pegasus and just a few degrees northeast of star sigma (σ) Aqr (mag. +4.8). It rises before midnight from northern temperate latitudes and up to a couple of hours earlier from locations further south.
On July 18th, the last quarter Moon passes 5 degrees north of Neptune.
M56 is a faint distant globular cluster in Lyra positioned close to its border with Cygnus. At apparent magnitude +8.3, it's one of the dimmer Messier globulars and unlike most objects of its type lacks a bright core, resulting in it being a challenging binocular object. Nevertheless, the cluster is visible in small telescopes and amateur scopes of the order of 250mm (10-inch) will resolve some stars, despite its relatively large distance.
M56 was discovered by Charles Messier discovered on January 23, 1779. He described it as a "nebula without stars" and like many globular clusters was first resolved into stars by William Herschel five years later. Another unusual feature about this object is that it follows a retrograde orbit through the Milky Way. It has been suggested that M56 may have been acquired during the merger of a dwarf galaxy, of which Omega Centauri forms the surviving nucleus.
The globular is located almost halfway along an imaginary line connecting beautiful double star Albireo (β Cyg - mag. +3.1) with Sulafat (γ Lyr - mag. +3.3). However, since it's located in a dense part of the Milky Way it's easy to miss especially with small telescopes. Not far from M56 is the only other Messier object in Lyra, M57 the "Ring Nebula".
M76 or "The Little Dumbbell Nebula" is a planetary nebula located in Perseus. At magnitude +10.1 and spanning 2.7 x 1.8 arc minutes, its one of the faintest and smallest objects in Messier's catalogue. The nebula was discovered by Pierre Méchain on September 5, 1780 and first recognised as a planetary nebula by American astronomer Heber Doust Curtis in 1918. However, Isaac Roberts suggested it was similar to M57 (Ring Nebula) in 1891.
M76 itself looks like a miniature version of the famous Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula, from which it derives its name. Interestingly, it was assigned two NGC numbers - NGC 650 and 651 - since wrongly suspected of consisting of two separate emission nebulae. The structure is now classed as a bipolar planetary nebula.
The Little Dumbbell Nebula maybe faint but not difficult to locate; it's positioned just south of the prominent "W" asterism of Cassiopeia and only a degree north-northwest of Phi Persei (φ Per - mag. +4.0). It's best seen from the Northern Hemisphere during the months of October, November and December. From latitudes 40N or more it's circumpolar and hence never sets. However from southern temperate latitudes, M76 is a difficult object that never climbs high above the northern horizon.
M80 is a small but compact globular cluster located in Scorpius. It shines at magnitude +7.5 and therefore within the range of popular 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars. At its core, M80 contains a large number of "blue stragglers", stars that appear much younger than the age of the globular cluster itself! The likely reason is they have probably lost part of their cooler outer layers due to close encounters with other stars. Since M80 contains more blue stragglers than average it implies exceptionally high core stellar interaction rates.
M80 was discovered by Charles Messier on January 4, 1781. Though not conspicuous, M80 is easy to locate as its positioned just 4 degrees northwest of brilliant red supergiant star Antares (α Sco - mag. +1.0). The globular is situated halfway along an imaginary line connecting Antares with Acrab (β Sco - mag. +2.6). Located just west of Antares is magnificent globular cluster M4.
The finder chart below shows the position of M80. The globular is best seen from tropical and southern hemisphere latitudes during the months of May, June and July.
M79 is an intriguing eighth magnitude globular cluster located in the constellation of Lepus. At a distance of 41,000 light-years from Earth and 60,000 light-years from the Milky Way centre, it's believed to be an extragalactic globular and a native of the nearby Canis Major Dwarf galaxy. The only other extragalactic globular cluster in Messiers catalogue is M54, which belongs to the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical galaxy.
Unusual for globulars, M79 is located opposite the galactic center and therefore best seen during the Southern Hemisphere summer and Northern Hemisphere winter months. With a declination of -24.5 degrees south it never rises particular high above the southern horizon from northern temperate latitudes. However, it's one of the finest globulars that can be seen during this time of year.
The constellation of Lepus is located south of Orion and west of Canis Major. It contains few deep sky objects within the range of amateur scopes and M79 is the only Messier object found within its boundaries. Locating M79 is easy; its positioned 20 degrees southwest of Sirius (α CMa - mag. -1.46), the brightest star in the night sky. An imaginary line connecting Arneb (α Lep - mag. +2.6) with Nihal (β Lep - mag. +2.8) and extending southwards for about the same distance again leads to M79. About 0.5 degrees southwest of M79 lies the magnitude +5.1 double star HD 35162 (HIP 25045) with its 7th magnitude companion, separated by 3 arc minutes.
M75 (mag. +8.7) is a very distant and compact globular cluster located in eastern Sagittarius. At 67,500 light years from Earth it's one of the more remote Messier globulars and hence appears faint and small from our perspective. It's located far beyond the galactic centre (46,700 light-years) and almost on the opposite side of the galaxy to us. Despite this, M75 is intrinsically bright and on nights of good seeing and transparency can be glimpsed with a pair of 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars.
M75 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on the night of August 27, 1780. Charles Messier observed it soon after and added it to his catalogue a few weeks later. It was William Herschel who first resolved M75 into stars describing it (like M62 and M70) as a "miniature version of M3."
M75 is located right at the Sagittarius-Capricornus border. It's positioned about 23 degrees northeast of the centre of the Sagittarius "Teapot" asterism and 5.5 degrees north and a little east of a small group of four faint naked-eye stars (59 Sgr - mag. +4.5, 60 Sgr - mag. +4.8, 62 Sgr - mag. +4.4 and ω Sgr - mag. +4.7). The globular is best seen during the months of June, July and August from the Southern Hemisphere and tropics.
Comet PanSTARRS (C/2012 K1) has been steadily brightening over the last few months and is now visible with small telescopes and large binoculars (e.g.15x70s or 20x80s). For most of June, the comet is well placed for observation in the early evening sky from the Northern Hemisphere and tropics. It's also visible from the Southern Hemisphere, but more difficult since it's lower down.
PanSTARRS was discovered on May 17, 2012 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) located on the island of Maui in Hawaii. At discovery, it's apparent magnitude was a feeble +19.7 and it was located 8.7 AU (1.3 billion kilometres or 800 million miles) from the Sun, far beyond the orbit of Jupiter and almost as distant as Saturn.
Location and star chart
PanSTARRS is currently moving in a southwestern direction. At the beginning of June, the comet shone at magnitude +8.3 and was located at the southwest corner of Ursa Major. On June 7th, PanSTARRS then crossed the border into the small faint constellation of Leo Minor where it remains until June 22nd. On this date, it enters Leo and remains there for the rest of the month. It's estimated that PanSTARRS will have brightened slightly to magnitude +8.1 during this time. This puts the comet easily within the range of small telescopes and large binoculars, although too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
For Northern Hemisphere observers, PanSTARRS appears fairly high in the sky towards the west just after sunset during the first three weeks of June. However, as the month closes in the comet will become increasingly more difficult to spot as it battles against the bright twilight sky. From equatorial regions during June, PanSTARRS is well placed but from southern temperate latitudes it always appears low down towards the northern sky.
PanSTARRS will round the Sun on August 27, 2014 (date of perihelion) after which it switches to the morning sky. It's expected to reach maximum brightness of about magnitude +6.0 in October 2014; at the limit of naked eye visibility but easily seen with 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars.
The finder chart below shows the positions of PanSTARRS from June 9 to July 27, 2014.
M105 (mag. +9.8) is an elliptical galaxy located in the constellation Leo that's visible with small telescopes. It was discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 24, 1781, which was three days before he discovered M101. However, due to unknown reasons the galaxy is one of several not included in Charles Messier's final published list. It was eventually added to the list in 1947 by Helen Sawyer Hogg, together with M106 and M107. William Herschel independently rediscovered M105 on March 11, 1784.
M105 is the brightest elliptical member of the Leo I or M96 group of galaxies. This grouping is one of many that lie within the Virgo Supercluster and includes M95, M96 and at least another 21 fainter members. M105 is located 35 Million light-years distant and is known to contain a supermassive black hole at its centre.
Galaxies M95, M96 and M105 are located in the southern section of the middle part of Leo. Imagine a line connecting Regulus (α Leo - mag. +1.4) the brightest star in Leo with Denebola (β Leo - mag. +2.1), the constellations third brightest star. Denebola is positioned about 24 degrees east and a couple of degrees north of Regulus. Located just short of half way along this line are M95, M96 and M105. The northernmost member of the trio is M105 with M96 located 50 arc minutes south of M105 and M95 positioned 40 arc minutes west of M96.
The galaxies are best seen during the months of March, April and May.
M62 is a magnitude +6.5 globular cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus at the border with Scorpius. It's located close to the centre of the Milky Way which may be the reason why it's one of the most irregular shaped globulars known. At a distance of only 6,100 light years from the galactic centre, M62 is subject to large deforming tidal forces. From Earth, the globular is much further away at 22,200 light-years.
M62 is visible with binoculars as a faint small fuzzy ball of light. However, since it's located amongst the rich starfields of the Milky Way it can easily be missed. It's best seen from tropical and southern hemisphere latitudes during the months of May, June and July. For mid latitude northern hemisphere based observers M62 is a tricky object. With a declination of 30 degrees south it's doesn't rise particularly high above the southern horizon, therefore never well situated for observation.
The globular was discovered by Charles Messier on June 7, 1771. However, he did not accurately measure its position until 1779 when it was added to his catalogue. William Herschel first resolved M62 into stars describing it as a miniature version of M3. Finding M62 can be challenging as there are no bright stars right next to it. It can be located by imagining a right angle triangle formed by connecting Antares (α Sco - mag. +1.0) with epsilon Sco (ε - mag. +2.3) and M62. Antares is 7.5 degrees northwest of M62 and ε Sco is 4.75 degrees southwest of M62.
Positioned 4.5 degrees north of M62 is slightly fainter but larger globular cluster M19 (mag. +7.2).
M25 is a bright (mag. +4.6) naked eye open cluster in Sagittarius that's a wonderful sight in binoculars and small telescopes. It was discovered by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1745 and subsequently catalogued by Charles Messier on June 20, 1764. There is however an unusual twist to the history of M25. For such a bright cluster it's reasonable to assume that it would have been included by John Herschel in his comprehensive 19th century General Catalog. For unknown reasons it wasn't despite the cluster been catalogued by Johann Elert Bode in 1777, observed by William Herschel in 1783 and described by Admiral Smyth in 1836. M25 was finally included in the supplementary Index Catalogue (as IC 4725) by J.L.E. Dreyer in 1908.
Finding M25 is relatively easy. It's positioned 6.5 degrees north and a little east of Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr - mag. +2.8) the top star of the bright "Teapot" asterism of Sagittarius. Only 3.5 degrees west of M25 is M24, the very large Sagittarius Star Cloud.
The cluster is best seen from southern and equatorial regions during the months of June, July and August. For mid-latitude northern hemisphere observers, M25 appears low down towards the south during the summer months.
Mercury reached greatest elongation east during the last week of May and remains visible at the start of June as an early evening object, low down above the northwestern horizon just after sunset. However, shining at only magnitude +1.4 and fading it's not long before the planet is lost to the bright twilight glare.
Mercury then passes through inferior conjunction on June 19th and hence is unsuitably placed for observation for the remainder of the month, except for southern hemisphere and tropical observers who may be able to catch a glimpse of Mercury low down above the northeastern horizon just before sunrise at months end.
On June 15th, Mercury reaches aphelion when it's located 0.467 AU (approx. 69.9 million kilometres or 43.4 million miles) from the Sun.
Venus remains an early morning beacon of light throughout June. Although now reduced in brightness to magnitude -4.0, it's still brighter than all the other planets and unmistakable due to its brilliance.
From the Northern Hemisphere, Venus is visible for an hour so before sunrise although the visibility period does increase slightly each subsequent morning. Observers further south enjoy more than 3 hours of visibility before dawn at the beginning of June, although that figure decreases to 2 hours by months end.
The thin waning crescent Moon passes 1.3 degrees south of Venus on June 24th.
Mars is visible as soon it's dark enough amongst the stars of Virgo. The planet is now moving direct but fades in brightness from magnitude -0.5 to +0.0 and shrinks in apparent diameter from 11.8 to 9.5 arc seconds during June. This is still large enough for telescope observers to make out a good amount of surface detail, but its apparent diameter is fast decreasing. By the end of June, Mars sets around midnight for northern temperate latitudes and about one hour later from Southern Hemisphere locations.
A nice evening pairing occurs on June 8th when the waxing gibbous Moon passes 2 degrees south of Mars.
Jupiter, mag -1.8, is moving direct in Gemini just south of the constellation two brightest stars, Castor (α Gem - mag. +1.6) and Pollux (β Gem - mag. + 1.1). The long evening period of visibility of the giant planet is now slowly coming to an end as it heads towards solar conjunction next month. At the beginning of June, Jupiter is visible above the northwestern horizon for nearly 3 hours after sunset but by months end this is reduced to an hour.
On June 1st and 29th, the thin waxing crescent Moon passes 5.5 degrees south of Jupiter.
The lovely ringed planet Saturn is now just passed opposition (May 10th) and visible after sunset towards the south-southeast from northern temperate latitudes or towards the east from southern temperate latitudes. Saturn then remains observable for most of the remainder of the night, with the planet situated higher in the sky from more southerly locations.
Saturn continues it's retrograde motion through the faint constellation of Libra, near to wonderful double star Zubenelgenubi (α Lib - mag. +2.75). The two brightest components of this multiple star system are easily separated with binoculars or small telescopes, revealing a beautiful yellow primary star alongside a fainter white coloured secondary component. Both Saturn and Zubenelgenubi are visible in the same binocular field of view.
Saturn's apparent brightness and size are now gradually decreasing as its distance from Earth increases. Consequently, Saturn's magnitude fades from +0.2 to +0.4 during June with its apparent diameter shrinking very slightly from 18.5 to 18.0 arc seconds.
Saturn's wonder of course is its ring system. They are currently wide open and tilted at 21 degrees from our perspective. A small 80mm (3.1-inch) telescope will easily show them. A larger telescope with its increased light gathering capability will display a wealth of detail. For example, a 200mm (8-inch) scope under good seeing conditions can be used to up to 400x magnification and reveals the 0.7 arc seconds wide Cassini division, the Enke division, the hazy C-ring as well as up to half a dozen of Saturn's satellites.
On June 10th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes 0.6 degrees south of Saturn with an occultation visible from southern South Africa or Antarctica.
Uranus is a morning object in Pisces. The planets visibility continues to steadily improve as the month progresses. The distant ice giant shines at magnitude +5.9 and therefore visible to the naked eye from a dark site. Most people don't have the luxury of such fine seeing conditions and therefore a pair of binoculars will be required to spot Uranus.
For northern hemisphere based observers at the start of June, Uranus rises in the east about 2 hours before sunrise. By months end the planet is much higher in the sky, rising more than 4 hours before the Sun. Southern hemisphere observers have it even better with Uranus well placed in the morning sky throughout June. At the start of June, the planet rises 4 hours before the Sun and by the end of the month it's visible from around midnight.
On June 21st, the waning crescent Moon passes 2 degrees north of Uranus.
Neptune (mag. +7.9) is well placed for observation amongst the stars of Aquarius. The planet rises around midnight from northern temperate latitudes and up to a couple of hours earlier for those located further south. Neptune is currently located about 30 degrees southwest of the Great Square of Pegasus and just a few degrees northeast of star sigma (σ) Aqr (mag. +4.8).
On June 10th Neptune reaches its first stationary point, which signals the beginning of this year's opposition period. The planet then commences retrograde motion with the last quarter Moon passing 5 degrees north of Neptune on June 18th.
M70 is an eighth magnitude globular cluster located in Sagittarius that's faintly visible with binoculars, appearing "star" like. It's much easier to spot with small telescopes where despite being small with little detail visible, it appear obviously non-stellar. To resolve M70 into stars large amateur scopes are required.
Charles Messier discovered M70 on August 31, 1780, describing it as a "nebula without star". On the same night he also discovered M69, another close by globular (both apparently and spatially). M70 has an extremely dense core and is believed at some time previously to have suffered a core collapse, similar to Messier globulars M15, M30 and possibly M62. It was William Herschel who first resolved M70 into stars, describing it as a miniature version of M3.
M70 is located 29,300 light years from Earth. Spatially, it's separated by only 1,800 light-years from M69 with both objects located close to the galactic centre. They are best seen from the Southern Hemisphere during the months of June, July and August. However, from northern temperate latitudes they are never well positioned, at best climbing just a few degrees above the southern horizon.
M69 is a globular cluster located inside the bright "Teapot" asterism of Sagittarius. It shines at magnitude +7.6 and therefore within the range of good quality 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars, although faint and only star like in appearance. The cluster is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere during the months of June, July and August. However, from northern temperate latitudes it's a difficult object as it never climbs high above the southern horizon.
M69 is located 29,700 light-years from Earth and was discovered by Charles Messier on August 31, 1780. On this night he also discovered M70, a physically close neighbour of M69; spatially they are separated by just 1,800 light years. Any potential observers located on planets orbiting stars inside M69 would have a spectacular view of M70 and vice-versa. Of course, this is assuming that the many thousands of bright stars visible in their own globular won't block the view of the other.
Finding M69 is easy once one is familiar within the teapot asterism of Sagittarius. Start by focusing on the base of the teapot and image a line connecting Kaus Australis (ε Sgr - mag. +1.8) with Ascella (ζ Sgr - mag. +2.6). Positioned 1.5 degrees along this line and 2 degrees north is M69, with two 5th magnitude stars located just south of the cluster.
M22 is a magnificent globular cluster located in the constellation of Sagittarius, that's one of the best objects of its type in the night sky. With a magnitude of +5.1, the cluster is visible to the naked eye under dark skies and is also the brightest globular in Messier's catalogue. Only the two great southern globulars Omega Centauri (NGC 5139) and 47 Tucanae (NGC 104) are more brilliant, however both are too far south in the sky to have been seen by Messier. With an apparent diameter extending 32 arc-minutes, M22 covers more sky than the Full Moon.
The main reason why M22 appears so large and bright is because it's close, only 10,400 light-years distant. It's also probably the first globular to have been discovered - by Abraham Ihle in 1665 - although it has been suggested that Hevelius may have seen it earlier. M22 was included in Edmund Halley's list of 6 objects published in 1715 and then catalogued by Charles Messier on the June 5, 1764.
M22 is an easy object to locate as it's positioned 2.5 degrees northeast of Kaus Borealis (λ Sag - mag. +2.8), the top star of the "teapot" asterism of Sagittarius. The globular is best seen from southern and equatorial regions during the months of June, July and August. From northern temperate locations it never rises particularly high above the southern horizon.
Comet Jacques (C/2014 E2), a newly discovered comet has now brightened to within small telescope range and should reach naked-eye brightness by the end of July. Based on the current light-curve, Jacques is predicted to peak at magnitude +4 and become a fine sight in the morning sky when seen from the Northern Hemisphere later this year.
When discovered on March 13, 2014 by Cristovao Jacques, Eduardo Pimentel and Joao Ribeiro de Barros, the comet was a feeble magnitude +14.7. It's currently heading towards perihelion on July 2nd when it will pass 0.66 AU (99 million kilometres or 61 million miles) from the Sun. Closest approach to Earth occurs on August 28th when Jacques passes 0.56 AU (84 million kilometres or 52 million miles) from our planet.
Location and star chart
Jacques is currently moving in a northwestern direction just east of beautiful Orion. The comet spends almost all of May weaving slowly through the faint constellation of Monoceros except on the 12th when it briefly cuts into neighbouring Canis Minor. It's predicted that Jacques will increase from magnitude +8.4 on May 1st to magnitude +6.9 by months end. This puts the comet within the range of small telescopes and large binoculars, although too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
For Northern Hemisphere observers, Jacques appears low down above the western horizon after sunset during the first half of the month. The comet is then quickly lost to the bright glare of the Sun before re-appearing in the morning sky at the end of July; hopefully bright enough to be visible to the naked eye.
From southern and equatorial latitudes, Jacques is well placed in the early evening sky during May. The comet is visible reasonable high up towards the west after sunset. It then passes perihelion on July 2nd after which it won't be visible from the Southern Hemisphere until early September.
The finder chart below shows the positions of Jacques from May 7, 2014 to June 3, 2014.