2021: June 15-17: Moon Passes Leo


June 15 – June 17, 2021:  The evening waxing moon passes Leo the Lion.  On June 15, the moon is near Regulus and Eta Leonis.  The next evening, June 16, the lunar orb is between Regulus and Denebola.  On June 17, the moon is beneath Denebola.

Chart Caption – 2021, June 15 – June 17: The moon passes Leo in the western evening sky.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

During the next three evenings, the evening waxing moon is near Leo.  The westward facing Lion is tilting toward the western horizon. The constellation is represented by a backwards question mark that is the head of the celestial big cat.  This figure is sometimes known as the “Sickle of Leo,” the namesake of a farmer’s tool.

The haunches are made by a triangle that includes the tail, Denebola, the constellation’s second brightest star.

The brightest star in the constellation is Regulus.  The star’s name means “the prince.” Its distinctly bluish tint indicates that it is hotter than the sun.  At a distance of about 80 light years, the star is about 275 times brighter than our sun.

Regulus is the star that is closest to the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system.  The sun, moon, and planets pass nearby. Next month, Venus and Mars pass the star.  Regulus is behind the sun on August 22, reappearing in the eastern sky during early September.  On the morning of September 5, the old moon appears 7.3° to the star’s upper left before sunrise.

During the next few evenings, step outside one hour after sunset, the waxing moon is in the western sky.  Here’s what to look for:

Chart Caption – 2021, June 15: Through a binocular notice Eta Leonis (η Leo) near the lunar crescent.

June 15: The moon, 28% illuminated, is over 30° up in the west-southwest.  The crescent is 1.1° to the upper left of Eta Leonis (η Leo on the chart).  From the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America, the moon blocks the star.  For more information about the lunar occultation see this link.  From the Americas, use a binocular to see the star with the lunar crescent.

June 16:One hour after sunset, the moon, 39% illuminated, is nearly 40° up in the west-southwest.  Below the Lion, the thick crescent is 13.0° to the upper left of Regulus, 12.0° to the lower right of Denebola, and 5.2° to the lower left of Chertan.

June 17: The moon is in Virgo this evening.  One hour after sunset, the nearly half-full moon is nearly 40° above the southwestern horizon. The lunar orb is 3.9° to the upper right of Zavijava, the second brightest star in Virgo, and 8.9° to the lower left of Denebola.  The name Zavijava means “the corner of the barking dog.”

Look for the moon each clear evening as it passes Leo and its phase waxes.

Articles and Summaries

2021, June 26 – June 30: Bright Moon, Morning Planets

June 26 – June 30, 2021:  The bright gibbous moon passes Jupiter and Saturn in the morning sky before sunrise.  Observe that the moon is in a different spot each morning, farther east toward the impending sunrise.

2021, June 15: Moon, Sickle of Leo

June 15, 2021:  The moon is with the Sickle of Leo this evening.  Step outside about an hour after sunset to find the crescent moon that is about 30% illuminated over one-third of the way up in the west.

2021, July 12: Venus – Mars Conjunction

July 12, 2021:  Venus – Mars conjunction evening.  Evening Star Venus passes 0.5° to the upper right of the Red Planet.  The crescent moon is nearby. This is the first of three conjunctions of Venus and Mars – a triple conjunction.

2021, July 1, Saturn – Mars Opposition

July 1, 2021:  Saturn and Mars are in opposite directions in the sky.  Mars sets as Saturn rises. In about a week, the two planets are visible in the sky at the same time.  This event signals that the planet parade is starting to reorganize. During July, three other planet – planet oppositions occur, leading up to a challenging view of the five bright planets during mid-August.

2021, June 13: Moon Passes Mars

June 13, 2021:  After sunset, look for the thin crescent moon near Mars.  The lunar sliver is also to the upper left of the star Pollux.

Categories: Astronomy, Sky Watching

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