Podcaster: Rob Webb

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Title: Observing With Webb in June 2021

Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School

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follow me : @MrWebbPV on Twitter and Instagram

This podcast is found on: Podbean page, Stitcher, and iTunes.  There’s also a video version on YouTube Channel.

The Pequea Valley Planetarium and its events and updates are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @pvplanetarium.


An annular solar eclipse, Mars passing through an open cluster, and plenty of lunar close encounters makes June of 2021 an exciting month for astronomy

Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at

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An annular solar eclipse, Mars passing through an open cluster, and plenty of lunar close encounters makes June of 2021 an exciting month for astronomy

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night. 

Naked-eye PLANETS

Sunset – Mars, Venus

  • Mars (W) – Look W after sunset to find the non-twinkling reddish-orange dot, much brighter than everything around it. Mars will move up through Cancer in June, and ends only about 15˚ above the horizon at the end of the month. 
  • Venus (WNW) – Starts its “evening star” appearance late in May, and stays around 10˚ above the horizon at dusk throughout June, never really getting more than 15˚ above the horizon this time around.

Throughout the night – None at the moment

Morning – Saturn, Jupiter

  • Saturn, Jupiter – The two gas giants are in the SE, getting higher and rising earlier each day.  Look SE in the morning (after 3am in the beginning of the month, after 12:30am by the end).  Jupiter will be on the left, with Saturn to the right about 15˚. 


Waning Gibbous (Mostly lit, rises later at night)

Last Quarter Moon – 2nd (Visible from midnight into the morning)

Morning Crescents (look East in the AM)

New Moon – 10th (darkest skies)

Evening Crescents (look West after Sunset)

First Quarter Moon – 18th (Visible until midnight)

Evening Gibbous (Mostly lit, after Sunset)

Full Moon – 24th (Visible all night)

May 30th – June 3rdClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn, Jupiter – After 2am but before sunrise, go out and look SE for the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Each day, Jupiter will be the brightest point of light, with Saturn almost two fist-widths to the right.  The Moon creeps up to them from the right on May 30th, is closest to Saturn on the 31st, and then closest to Jupiter on June 1st.  The Moon then moves to the left of Jupiter for the 2nd and 3rd.

June 10th – ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE – (Viewing changes by location. More info can be found here or by using Stellarium for your location. I will focus on Southeastern Pennsylvania.)  This type of eclipse only happens every couple of years, and even less frequently at each particular location.  This will be quite a sight, especially given its unique timing and location. 

So what’s happening?  The Moon is passing in front of the Sun from Earth’s perspective, casting a dark shadow near the North Pole, and a lighter shadow on parts of the Northern Hemisphere.  One big difference between this eclipse and the eclipse of 2017 is that the Moon is a little further away in its orbit.  This makes it appear a little bit smaller, and hence not quite big enough to block the ENTIRE surface of the Sun.  This means that if you are in the path of the eclipse, you will see a ring of the Sun’s surface instead of complete darkness and the Corona. 

So what does that mean for those of us in the Eastern US? This will be a sunrise eclipse, meaning that you need to get a nice view of the Northeast horizon, and get out there to watch the sun rise as a portion of its formal self.  For example, here in Lancaster County, PA, sunrise is 5:34am, which is pretty close to the time of maximum eclipse.  At that moment, the sun will rise in the NNE, looking like a crescent Moon, but much brighter.  Yes, you’ll need to protect your vision just like you would for a typical solar eclipse.  More information here.  Over the next hour, as the Sun rises up about 15˚, the Moon will shift to the left and uncover more and more of the Sun’s surface until about 6:30am, which is last contact. 

12th – 14thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus, Mars – On the 12th of June, get out right after sunset, look West, and find a VERY thin crescent Moon right in between Mars and bright but low Venus.  On the following night (the 13th), the Moon will be less than 3˚ above Mars.  Then on the 14th, the three make a nice line, almost evenly spaced.

20thSummer Solstice – This is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  There’s a bit of explanation as to why here.

22nd – 24thMars and Beehive Cluster – In a somewhat rare occurrence, Mars appears to become one of many stars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer, especially on the 23rd.  This is definitely worth a look through your telescope or binoculars, though you might see the cluster with your naked eye if your skies are especially dark. This cluster is thousands of stars, 500 light years away, in our Milky Way galaxy.  Mars will be much brighter than the cluster stars.

26th – 30thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn, Jupiter – After midnight look SE, or in the morning look South to find the Moon, with bright Jupiter and Saturn nearby.  The Moon is closest to Saturn on the morning of the 27th, in between on the 28th, and closest to Jupiter on the 29th.


Use a sky map from to help you out.

After Dinner, Before Bed:

Big Dipper, Bootes, Virgo, Corona Borealis, Hercules – Gaze almost vertically as you face the NW, and you’ll easily find the Big Dipper: seven very bright stars that form a spoon shape. Now if you take the handle of the Dipper, follow its curve to the next bright star you see, about 30˚ away, which is Arcturus. “Follow the arc to Arcturus.” That’s the brightest star in Bootes, which looks like a kite. Take that same curve, and follow it about another 20˚ to “speed on to Spica”, the brightest star in Virgo, one of my favorite constellations, since it reminds me of the Dickinson Mermaid.  Now go back to Bootes, and just to the left of Bootes are seven stars that form the northern crown Corona Borealis, which looks more like a small bowl or a “C” in the sky. Continue a little further to the left and you’ll find the keystone asterism which is part of the constellation Hercules. Extra Challenge! Look for M13, the Hercules Cluster in between two of Hercules’ “keystone” stars.  It known as the best globular cluster in the northern skies.  It will be a fuzzy spot in binoculars and will be even cooler through a telescope

Before Work:

Summer Triangle – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila – Look pretty much straight above you, and find the brightest star up there. You’ll notice a parallelogram attached to it. This is the brightest star Vega, part of the constellation Lyra, the harp. Directly above you will be Cygnus the Swan, with its brightest star Deneb. It will look like a large cross, or if you look out a little further, a swan flying above you. Below Cygnus and Lyra is the third constellation of the Summer Triangle, Aquila the Eagle, with its brightest star Altair. The three bright stars in this one can be easily confused for Orion’s belt, given their similar size, however they are not in line as straight, and are part of a bigger diamond shape.  Use a star chart to find small Delphinus and Sagitta in the area as well.

End of podcast:

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