Photograph by NASA
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Charged particles from the sun could reach Earth Monday night, forming an colorful sky show known as the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.

Photograph by NASA

This Week's Night Sky: See Auroras and the Moon’s Great Wall

Grab a telescope and watch for the aurora borealis, which could dance across the sky Monday night.

As the first week of summer begins, two bright planets continue to converge at dusk and sky-watchers are on the lookout for a colorful light show.

Aurora Alert.  Sky-watchers in higher latitudes should be vigilant for a bout of northern lights or aurora borealis tonight, Monday, June 22.  

In what’s known as a coronal mass ejection, at least two giant clouds of charged particles flew off the sun Sunday heading in the general direction of Earth. Space weather forecasters at NOAA say there’s a 90% chance of a polar geomagnetic storm sometime between late Monday night into Tuesday morning, when the particles hit Earth.

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The sun shoots charged particles into space during coronal mass ejections, which can form the aurora borealis in Earth’s night sky.

The Northern Lights subtle in brightness and color, so the best way to see the show is from dark skies away from the light pollution of cities. Face the northern sky and scan near the horizon for the start of ghostly green glows around the local midnight hour. However, Auroras may start earlier in the evening and last into the pre-dawn hours, ebbing and peaking in brightness.

No one knows for sure how how good the sky will be as it depends on how the CME slams into Earth’s magnetic field, so the best way to know of course is to head out and look up.

Lunar Straight Wall. The first quarter moon will come into view on Wednesday evening, and it will be the best time of the month to see a striking feature called the lunar wall. With a small telescope, gazers can spot a fault line that stretches 75 miles (120 kilometers) across the moon and is more than 1,300 feet (400 meters) deep. It casts a distinct straight and dark line. (Get a finder’s chart and read more about lunar wonders.)

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Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets in our night sky, will continue to converge this week.

Venus and Jupiter.  The two brightest planets in the evening sky—Jupiter and Venus—continue converging this week, and will be only 2 degrees apart on Friday, June 26.

Mark your calendars for next week, June 30, when the two star-like beacons of the night reach their tightest pairing, making for an amazing photo opportunity.

Moon meets Saturn.  Look in the southern night sky to see the waxing gibbous moon pay a visit to  the true lord of the rings, Saturn, on Sunday, June 28.

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Earth’s moon will converge with Saturn this week.

Luna will be only 2 degrees away from the planet, which will be the brightest object near the moon tonight in the constellation Scorpius.  Look down and to the  left of the cosmic pair for the bright orange eye of the red giant Antares.  

Train your backyard telescope on Saturn and revel in its amazing rings that are now tilted nearly 25 degrees towards Earth, making them a real cosmic showpiece.

Clear skies!

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