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Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 2013 - Venus, Mercury, Solstice, Supermoon and HAZE!!!

June got off to a pretty good start with clear nights and some great views of Saturn.

Planets Venus and Mercury also made an appearance shortly after sunset. Mercury was at its highest on 12th June, about 24 degrees high at sunset. Its gradually getting lower each day before disappearing by end June.

I took this picture on 10th June, when a thin waxing crescent Moon was near Venus. Mercury is the dimmer object above Venus near the top edge of the photo.

Venus will get higher each day from now until November as it makes its way closer to Earth.

Mercury-Venus Conjunction
On 20th and 21st June, Venus and Mercury will appear close together (about 2deg apart). Due to their low position in the western part of the sky, they will only be visible from 7:30pm-8pm.
Screenshot from Stellarium planetarium programme - posted on Singapore-Sky Facebook page by Dr KK Cheong.
Sadly, the haze that has currently enveloped the island will make these planets almost impossible to see.

Northern Solstice
June 21st is the time when the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky due to the tilt of the Earth. This also causes warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours in the Northern parts of the world.

In Singapore, expect the Sun to rise from the north east and set in the north west. Daytime will also be slightly longer than usual, 12 hours 11 mins 43 secs to be more exact. Sunrise: 7:00am, Sunset: 7:12pm.
For more info on Solstice see last year's post: Solstice in Singapore

Supermoon Returns
23rd June 2013 is Full Moon in Singapore. Its also the Moon's closest perigee (the Moon's closest point to Earth), resulting in a  larger than normal Full Moon, known as a Supermoon.
Even at its closest point the Moon is still 356989km away, therefore the difference in size is hard to notice.
Size difference of Full Moons at closest position to Earth (perigee) and furtherest distance (apogee)
Usually the Moon looks bigger when its lower in the sky due to an illusion where are brain perceives objects near the ground closer than those high in the sky.
The June Supermoon is actually closer than other supermoons that occur in the year but once again it will be difficult to notice unless you compare photos of other full moons.
More on supermoon: Earth and Sky - Most "Super" Supermoon

These three astronomical events are quite subtle and can be missed if you don't know what you're looking for. Visibility is made worse by the haze blowing over Singapore from Sumatra.
The air quality/Pollutant Standards Index is currently in the unhealthy-hazardous range, so its not the best time to be going outside looking at the sky.
Took a picture of the hazy Sun setting behind Science Centre on the way home last night.

Someone commented that it looked a bit like Lord of the Rings, i.e. the eye of Sauron above the Dark Tower Barad-dur. A few minutes later I saw a post from SGAG with the exact same idea:

Original picture submitted by Jonathan Chong. Posted on SGAG facebook and