Supernovae are titanic explosions resulting from the death throes of massive stars. They can outshine entire galaxies, radiate more energy than our sun over its full lifetime and are the source of heavy elements essential to life.
“We are all creatures of the stars,” writer Doris Lessing says, “simply bits of stellar debris.” Sky and Telescope magazine, in its June issue, reports that the brightest supernova ever detected has been seen. Located 3.8 billion light years from Earth, Supernova ASASSN-15th at its peak was 50 times brighter than all the stars in our Milky Way galaxy combined. “If it were in the Milky Way,” one astronomer remarked, “there would be no night as it would make our skies brighter than the full moon.”
Astronomers are at a loss trying to explain how such unimaginable amounts of energy were produced as it fits none of the common explanations for supernova explosions.
Focus on the planets
Mercury rises in the east at dawn but is barely visible above the horizon as June opens. It lies just above the thin crescent moon on June 3, but a better time to view Mercury will be June 12 when it reaches it highest elevation in the sky.
Venus is lost to view during the month of June.
Mars rises in the south an hour or so after sunset and is still close to Earth and very bright. This situation will change as the month progresses, with Mars growing dimmer and smaller as Earth pulls away from its slower neighbor.
Jupiter rises in the southwest a half-hour after sunset and remains up nearly all night. Telescopes will reveal the planet’s zones and bands as well as the dance of its four major moons about and across the face of the giant planet. On June 8 the moon Callisto passes directly across the planet’s face starting around 11 p.m.
Saturn lies low in the southeast at nightfall and remains in the sky all night. The rings are tilted to provide an excellent view of the dark Cassini Division separating the A and B rings. The major moon Titan also is readily seen, as are three minor moons with a little searching.
Uranus rises in the east in Pisces around 3 a.m. but morning twilight soon interferes. There is a better chance of spotting its blue-green disk later in the month.
Neptune rises in the southeast about 2 a.m. on June 1 and by midnight at midmonth. Its blue-gray disk may be spotted with difficulty among the stars of Aquarius.
1: Sunrise, 4:53 a.m.; sunset, 8:14 p.m.
3: Mercury lies at the top of the thin crescent moon on the eastern horizon about a half-hour before sunrise.
4: New moon, 11 p.m.
6: Venus passes behind the sun today and thus is lost to view.
12: Moon in first quarter, 4:10 a.m.
15: Moon at apogee, of farthest distance from Earth.
18: On the southeast horizon an hour after sunset the star Antares, Saturn and a nearly full moon form a line from the lower right to the upper left. Mars lies far to the upper right of the trio.
20: Full moon, 7:02 a.m. The full moon of June is known variously as the Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon or Honey Moon. The summer solstice occurs at 6:34 p.m. This is the northernmost point the sun reaches in the northern hemisphere, and, henceforth, the days will start getting shorter. The sun enters the astrological sign of Cancer at the solstice.
21: The sun enters the astronomical sign of Gemini on the ecliptic.
25: Mercury lies very near the east-northeast horizon about a half-hour before sunrise with Aldebaran to its upper right.
27: Moon in last quarter, 2:19 p.m.
30: Sunrise, 4:52 a.m.; sunset, 8:25 p.m.
Send astronomical queries to Clair Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or care of the Bangor Daily News, Features Desk, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, Maine 04402.