Little Mercury can be spotted during the second half of June. Look for it very low in the west-northwest shortly after sunset. It will pass under the stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini, moving further west each evening. A waxing crescent moon will be positioned below and to the left of Mercury on June 21.
On June 5, for the last time this entire century, the planet Venus will pass directly between Earth and the sun. WARNING: Only observers with special safety equipment on their binoculars or telescopes should attempt to view this rare event. A safe alternative is viewing through a small piece of #14 or greater welding glass, available at any welding supply store. Those who have the safety equipment will see Venus as a small black dot gliding slowly across the solar disk. The transit begins in the Jamestown area at about 6:04 p.m. EDT. Since the whole event takes about 6.5 hours, the sun will set while the transit is in progress. The next transit of Venus will take place in the year 2117.
During the last week in June, Venus and Jupiter can be seen shining brightly in the east shortly before sunrise.
Mars sets in the west about four hours after the sun. The distance between the Red Planet and Earth continues to increase and, as a result, Mars is growing dimmer.
Massive and bright Jupiter can be seen above brilliant Venus in the east during dawn at the end of June.
Saturn is high in the southwest evening sky. On June 27, the moon forms a triangle with Saturn and the star Spica.
The sun reaches the Summer Solstice on June 20 at 7:09 p.m. EDT. This marks the start of summer and the maximum hours of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
UPDATE ON NASA SPINOFFS
Alexander von Humboldt observed that there are three stages in scientific discovery: first people deny that it is true; then they deny that it is important; finally they credit the wrong person. - cited in A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
There are thousands and thousands of spinoffs and benefits from NASA's space program that have enhanced the quality of life for people all around the world. For example:
Dialysis machines rely entirely on a chemical process that was developed by NASA.
Modem microchips are descendants of the circuits used in the Apollo Guidance Computer.
Ceramic "invisible" braces were developed with NASA Advanced Ceramic Research. The material was originally used to protect the antennae of heat-seeking missile trackers.
NASA pioneered long-distance telecommunications using orbiting satellites. There are over 200 communications satellites now in Earth orbit. Their health and locations are constantly monitored by NASA.
The newest ear thermometers rely on infrared sensors similar to the ones NASA uses to measure the temperature of the stars. It now takes only two seconds to record a patient's temperature.
NASA has led the way in water filtration and purification equipment that does not require chlorine. The agency was the first to incorporate charcoal in its filters. Incredible as it sounds, nearly 10 million people worldwide die each year from water borne diseases.
NASA greatly improved the freeze-drying of food. This simultaneously reduces weight and maintains nutritional value, both essential to space travel.
NASA engineers developed a three-dimensional polyurethane foam used in athletic shoes.
Teens the world over love to use gaming joysticks. The first one ever used was the one controlling the Apollo Lander.
The first adjustable smoke detector was invented by NASA engineers. It incorporates an ionization sensor that uses radioactive americium-241 to detect smoke particles.
NASA came up with great improvements in insulation. Your home insulation probably uses the same reflective material that protects spacecraft from radiation.
Although NASA did not invent them, the agency brought major improvements to power tools. These advances made them lighter, enabling them to be battery operated (even precision power medical instruments).
Safety grooving in concrete highways and runways was NASA's idea. It helps to divert water off the surface, allowing the tires to remain in contact at all times.
The technology that NASA used to develop scratch-resistant visors for its spacesuits was transferred to be used in eyeglasses and sunglasses.
Tremendous advances in food packaging, preservation, preparation and nutrition to meet the challenges of space has resulted in many new commercial products. Food safety was extremely important to insure that the astronauts did not get food poisoning on their trip to the moon.
NASA did not invent MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) but has contributed significantly to its advances over the years. Also in the medical field, NASA has greatly advanced technology in the use of surgical lasers, implantable heart pacemakers and insulin pumps, digital mammography, ultrasound scanners and CAT scans (originally developed to locate defects in spacecraft parts), biomedical microscopy and blood serum research, artificial heart and heart pump research.
Today, every manufacturer of lightweight breathing apparatus equipment for firefighters uses some form of NASA technology.
NASA developed the use of ceramic microspheres in the manufacture of insulating paints.
The creation of greatly improved plasma displays in TVs and computer monitors resulted from NASA research.
The Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty are coated in anti-corrosion materials that NASA developed to save its launch pads from hot, humid, salt laden air.
Memory Foam originated under a NASA contract that set out to improve seat cushioning and crash protection for pilots and passengers. It is now used in mattresses and in shock absorbing mid-soles for shoes.
Although NASA did not actually invent the GPS system, it played a major role in the successful development of GPS technology. Today, there is a network of about 30 satellites in high Earth orbit that provide unprecedented accuracy in positioning, navigation, and timing services worldwide.
NASA and Plantronics, Inc. jointly developed advanced headsets with innovative microphones and noise canceling features that are now used in many wireless applications.
Advanced solar cell panels were tested in space by NASA after the agency invested significant research into improving solar cell design and efficiency.
Fire resistant foam developed by NASA is now used in thermal and acoustical insulation applications worldwide.
Hydroponic agriculture got a big boost from research done in NASA sponsored labs.
Many manufacturing companies were aided by NASA research in machine readable product labeling, in the development of revolutionary quick-connect fasteners, and in devising equipment allowing nondestructive evaluation of materials and structures.
NASA enabled big advances in satellite data transmission for global communications and in remote sensing satellites used in locating forest fires.
Without NASA, our knowledge of robotics would be much more primitive than it is.
In addition, NASA has either invented or advanced the technology of plasma-sprayed engine lubricants, high-pressure water stripping, gasoline vapor recovery systems, innovative protective clothing and survival gear, microwave radiation hazard detectors, prosthetic arms and legs, space imaging as aids in the fields of archeology and crop management, needle-based biopsy procedures, metal-cutting tools for rescue work (Lifeshears), weather forecasting, light emitting diodes (LEDs), aircraft lightning protection and collision avoidance systems, greatly improved tires and braking systems, enhanced high bypass turbofan aircraft engines, microlasers in the fields of data storage and printing, fiber optic communication systems, compact disk capacities, Kevlar bullet proof vests, electronic pain control devices, windshear detection and warning systems for aircraft, etc.
This list could go on and on. This windfall of benefits from NASA's space program touches almost every aspect of our lives. And these spinoff benefits are in addition to the invaluable feats of placing men on the moon, launching thousands of weather, communications, and scientific satellites, sending probes to the sun and the other planets. NASA is truly an economical investment in America's future, costing taxpayers less than one penny out of every dollar spent in the federal budget.
Editor's note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, the Southern Tier Astronomy Recreation Society, and The Post-Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at www.martzobservatory.org or S.T.A.R.S. at www.UpStateAstro.org/stars/stars.html.