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Moon and Spica on June 14

Tonight – June 14, 2016 – the moon couples up with Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden.

No matter where you live worldwide, look first for the moon. The star closest to it on the sky’s dome will be Spica. You might also notice two very bright “stars” nearby. One is Jupiter and one is the red planet, Mars. The moon will be moving toward Mars in the coming few evenings. See a chart showing these planets, below.

Spica ranks as a first-magnitude star; in other words, it’s one of our sky’s brightest stars. But the glare from tonight’s waxing gibbous moon might make Spica look meek this evening. It might be easier to view the planet Saturn and the star Antares in the southeast at nightfall because they’re farther than Spica is from the moonlit glare. And it’ll be hard to miss the evening’s brightest planet, Jupiter, lighting up the western sky on these June evenings. Mars is nearly as bright as Jupiter, and it’s noticeably reddish in color.

Three planets light up the June 2016 evening all month long. The green line depicts the ecliptic - the sun's yearly path in front of the constellations of the Zodiac.

Three planets light up the June 2016 evening all month long. The green line depicts the ecliptic – the sun’s yearly path in front of the constellations of the Zodiac.

Throughout the night, from everyplace worldwide, the moon, planets and stars will go westward across the sky. They go westward throughout the night for the same reason that the sun goes westward during the day. The Earth spins from west-to-east on its rotational axis, causing all these heavenly bodies to appear to travel from east-to-west every day. This apparent daily movement caused by the Earth’s rotation is called diurnal motion.

If you watch the moon from day to day, you can detect its true orbital motion around our planet. Over the course for the next several days, you’ll see the moon moving away Spica, and toward the brilliant planet Mars.

As always, the moon goes full circle in front of the backdrop stars of the zodiac in a little less than one calendar month.

The moon will meet up with the star Spica again on July 11, 2016.

After tonight, watch for the waxing gibbous moon to move away from the star Spica and move closer to the brilliant planet Mars.

After the night of June 14, watch for the waxing gibbous moon to move away from the star Spica and move closer to the brilliant planet Mars.

Bottom line: The June 14, 2016 moon is near the star Spica on the sky’s dome and the moon is heading toward the red planet Mars.

Virgo? Here’s your constellation

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Bruce McClure

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