The new moon occurs Sunday (June 21), at 2:41 a.m. EDT (0741 GMT), just two days after the waning moon makes a close predawn pass to Venus and a day after the solstice. As an added bonus, observers in a region from eastern Africa to the Pacific coast of Asia will see a solar eclipse.Â
When the moon is directly between the Earth and sun, we call that a new moon. About every 29.5 days the two bodies share the same celestial longitude, an alignment also called a conjunction. (Celestial longitude is a projection of the Earth’s own longitude lines on the celestial sphere). Usually the moon “misses” the sun from the perspective of the Earth, because the moon’s orbit is slightly tilted with respect to the plane of the Earth’s orbit. Every now and then, though, the moon lines up perfectly with the sun. The shadow of the moon touches the Earth, and some are treated to an eclipse.Â
June’s eclipse will be an annular eclipse, which means the moon does not cover the entire disk of the sun. Instead, the moon is just far enough away from Earth that it appears slightly smaller than the sun does, leaving a ring of light â€” an annulus â€” surrounding the moon. Unlike a total solar eclipse, it’s not possible to see the sun’s corona because the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun. (Warning: You should never look directly at an annular eclipse, even during maximum eclipse, without protecting your eyes with filters specifically designed for the purpose. Also, never look through binoculars or a telescope at the sun, because the focused light can permanently blind you.)Â
The eclipse won’t be visible at all in the Americas or Europe. The moon’s shadow will start in the Republic of Congo, where the eclipse starts just before sunrise. It will move northeast across the Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. After that it will go through Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Crossing the Gulf of Oman, the eclipse track moves through Pakistan, northern India, and into Tibet as it starts to curve southeast and cross the southeastern part of China, and then across Taiwan. The eclipse track ends just south of Guam.Â
The point of greatest eclipse will be just west of Nepal near the Indian-Chinese border, but this eclipse track also passes through large cities such as Xiamen and Ganzhou.Â
In Xiamen, for example, the eclipse will last 2 hours and 40 minutes, starting at 2:43 p.m. local time on June 21. The moon will appear to cover about 98% of the sun, and greatest eclipse will be at 4:10 p.m. local time. The eclipse ends at 5:24 p.m., well before sunset.Â
In Dehradun, India, north of New Delhi, observers will see the eclipse begin at 10:24 a.m. local time and maximum eclipse will be at 12:05 p.m., with the eclipse ending at 1:50 p.m.Â
As one moves north or south of the eclipse track, the moon covers less of the sun â€” New Delhi sky watchers are about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Dehradun, will still see a maximum of about 93% of the sun covered, with maximum eclipse at 12:01 p.m. local time.Â
Visible planets and constellations
While observers in the Americas won’t get to see the eclipse, they will see the waning moon go into conjunction with Venus. For skywatchers in parts of the northeastern U.S. and Canada, the moon will actually pass in front of Venus in a rare phenomenon known as an occultation. But most of the world will only see them make a close approach on the morning of the conjunction.
According to NASA’s Skycal, the waning moon will be in conjunction with Venus at 4:52 a.m. EDT (0843 GMT) on June 19. The pair will rise at about 4:11 a.m. in New York City, according to In-The-Sky.org, and won’t get very high â€” perhaps 8 degrees â€” before the sky gets light. The moon will be a thin crescent, about three-quarters of a degree away and to the left of Venus.Â
Other planets will also be visible on the night of June 21-22. By 11:30 p.m. local time in mid-northern latitudes Jupiter and Saturn will be in the southeast, with Saturn a little below and to the left of Jupiter. Saturn is in the constellation Capricornus, the sea goat, while Jupiter is in Sagittarius, the archer.Â
To find them, look nearly due south and find the reddish star Antares â€” the “heart” of the constellation Scorpius â€” and follow its curved line of stars that marks the body and the tail of the scorpion. To the left of it one can see Sagittarius’ teapot-shaped grouping of stars. Jupiter will be as bright or brighter than the stars in Sagittarius and emit a steady, yellow-white light, whereas stars often seem to twinkle. (This is because stars are basically point sources of light, whereas planets show a disk, even if that disk is too small to consciously notice).Â
The red planet Mars rises at about 12:58 a.m. in New York City on the morning of June 22; by 3:30 a.m. local time it is about 27 degrees above the southeastern horizon in the constellation Aquarius, the water bearer.Â
Summer constellations shineÂ
High in the eastern sky, by 10 p.m. local time, the constellations of Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila will show the asterism the Summer Triangle, consisting of the stars Vega (Alpha Lyrae), Deneb (Alpha Cygni) and Altair (Alpha Aquilae). During the summer Vega, one of the brightest stars visible from the Northern Hemisphere, reaches near the zenith near the midnight hours, and the asterism also frames part of the Milky Way. From a dark-sky site one can see it stretch from Sagittarius to the Cassiopeia constellation in the north.Â
Cassiopeia is a legendary figure, representing a queen of Aethiopia who was married to king Cepheus. Cassiopeia boasted her daughter Andromeda was more beautiful than the sea-nymphs, the Nereids. This angered Poseidon, the god of the seas, who sent a monster to attack the coast. An oracle said that the only way to stave off the attacks was to sacrifice her daughter to a sea monster, often represented by the constellation Cetus. Andromeda was saved, and the monster defeated by Perseus.Â
Cepheus and Cassiopeia are both visible in the sky together for most of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, as both are near the north celestial pole and Cepheus never sets north of about 45 degrees latitude. Just south of the “W” shape of Cassiopeia is the Andromeda constellation, which rises after midnight, and just east of Cassiopeia is Perseus, which follows and becomes visible by about 1 a.m. local time.
On the night of the new moon, since the sky will be free of any interfering moonlight, the Andromeda constellation offers a naked-eye view of the Andromeda galaxy, which can be spotted away from city lights as a smudge of light in Andromeda; one can find it by tracing a line between the leftmost stars of Cassiopeia southwards.Â
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