Babe Among the Stars: Pollux

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy


There was a question on a UK TV quiz show during May: 'Beta Geminorum is the brightest star in which constellation?' I thought the answer was easy, and the contestant correctly said Gemini even though he admitted it was a guess. I did a straw poll among my family and friends, not all of them would have guessed correctly. I quite happily imparted that its common name is Pollux, and, at 33 light years distant, it's the closest giant star to our own Sun. It has a gas giant planet in orbit, catalogued beta Geminorum b. In 2014 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) invited members of the public to suggest names for extrasolar planets discovered prior to 2009. The name that was chosen for beta Geminorum b was Leda, after Pollux's mother, but as there are other astronomical bodies named Leda, it was decided that Thestias, meaning 'daughter of Thestius' (of which Leda was one of many), would be used instead.

June 2016 Diary Dates

June is the best month of this year to view the ringed planet Saturn. Looking southeast around midnight towards Ophiuchus/Scorpius should bear fruit. Mars will be in the scene in early June as well. Just beware you don't confuse Mars with the brilliant 'rival of Mars' - Antares, the red supergiant luminary of Scorpius.

  • 01: Moon passes 2° south of Uranus
  • 03: The Moon passes 0.7° south of Mercury
  • 03: The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth)
  • 04: The 56m-asteroid 2016 JB29 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 05: New Moon
  • 07: The 7m-asteroid 2016 LT1 will pass Earth within the orbit of the Moon
  • 08: Callisto transits Jupiter
  • 10: The 1.8km-asteroid 1997 XF11 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 11: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
  • 11: The Moon passes 1.5° south of Jupiter
  • 13: The 16m-asteroid 2015 XZ378 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 14: Jupiter occults Ganymede and Io
  • 15: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
  • 17: The Moon passes 7° north of Mars
  • 18: The Moon passes 3° north of Saturn
  • 19: Mercury passes 4° north of Aldebaran (alpha Tauri)
  • 20: Full Moon - the Strawberry or Honey Moon
  • 20: Summer solstice (Northern Hemisphere)/Winter solstice (Southern Hemisphere)
  • 20: The 60m-asteroid 2009 CV will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 21: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
  • 24: The 215m-asteroid 2010 NY65 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 24: Ganymede transits Jupiter
  • 25: The Moon passes 1.2° north of Neptune
  • 25: Callisto transits Jupiter
  • 26: Pluto passes within 3° of Albaldah (π Sagittarii)
  • 27: June Boötids meteor shower (cosmic dust left behind by comet Pons-Winnecke) peaks
  • 28: The Moon passes 3° south of Uranus
  • 30: 2nd annual global Asteroid Day

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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