Full moon in Scorpius

This month's full moon occurs at 9.11am on Sunday, writes Ian Griffin.

Ian Griffin
Ian Griffin
As regular readers know, I have a fascination for photographing the rising full moon, which is why, weather permitting, I shall be out with my camera, a telephoto lens and a tripod on Sunday evening trying to get some decent pictures.

In Dunedin, moonrise occurs at 5.42pm, at an azimuth angle of 111 degrees (which is south of east), so the views from atop Otago Peninsula should be splendid as the moon rises over the southern ocean.

On Sunday evening, the moon, which will be over 370,000km from Earth, is in the constellation of Scorpius, the Scorpion. If you cast your gaze to the right of our closest celestial neighbour, you should be able to spot the orange/red star Antares, the brightest star in this storied constellation.

Antares is approximately 550 light years away, which means the light you see when looking at this star began its cosmic journey back in 1469.

For Maori stargazers, Antares is the divine manifestation of Rehua, the eldest son of Rangi and Papa, which makes it one of the most famous stars in the sky. Although light from the full moon will make the sky very bright on Sunday, once you spot Antares, you will be able to trace out the very distinct curved line of stars which in Greek tradition mark the ''sting'' of the Scorpion.

For Polynesian voyagers, the ''sting'' was Maui's fishhook, a useful constellation whose position in the sky was often used to navigate their oceanic crossings between Pacific islands.

If you have an unobstructed view towards the horizon, you won't be able to miss Jupiter, a bright yellow/white object below the moon and Antares.

In Dunedin, Jupiter rises just after 6.30pm, so by the time our chart is drawn for, the fifth planet from the sun will be three degrees above the horizon. Jupiter is getting brighter as it approaches opposition (its closest point to Earth), which occurs on June 10.

 

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