It may be possible to spot Mercury very low along the eastern horizon before sunrise during the last two weeks in June. Because this little planet is quite dim, it will be hard to glimpse in the dawn sky.
Venus rises in the east about two hours before the sun. It's easy to follow the phase changes of this brilliant planet with a small telescope. However, at times it appears too bright when viewed against a dark sky. For better contrast, try to observe Venus in either morning or evening twilight.
Mars appears along the eastern horizon about two hours before sunrise. On the mornings of June 19-28th, the Red Planet will be just above bright Venus in morning twilight.
Jupiter rises in the east shortly after midnight this month. For the best telescopic views of this mighty planet and its moons, wait until it's high in the southern predawn sky.
Saturn sinks lower toward the western horizon each evening during June. The ring system is inclined less than 4 degrees and is becoming thinner every evening.
The sun will reach the Summer Solstice on June 21 at 1:45 a.m. This marks the start of summer and the maximum hours of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
UFOS AND ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
"You can fool some of the people all of the time,
And all of the people some of the time.
But not all of the people all of the time."
- Abraham Lincoln
A UFO is an unidentified flying object that the observer perceives as a possible or actual alien spacecraft. Nearly everyone reading this article has looked up at the sky at sometime or another in their lives, and witnessed something that they couldn't immediately explain. Objects such as airplanes, satellites, meteors, flocks of birds, bright planets or stars, searchlights, weather balloons, etc, can appear very strange under certain temperature inversions and other atmospheric conditions. Ever since people evolved to walk upright, they have occasionally observed transient phenomena in the sky that they couldn't understand. However, these sightings that we now call UFOs began to increase dramatically after the end of World War II in1945.
One of the first in the modern era of UFO sightings was by a private pilot in June, 1947. He said that he saw nine airborne objects that flew "like a saucer if you skip it across the water." Soon after this incident was reported in the newspapers and on the radio, a nationwide wave of sightings involving "saucers" poured in. Of course, the media have always given an incredible amount of attention to sensational claims of anything that smacks of paranormal or supernatural occurrences. So, in the ensuing years, waves of UFO sightings took place, with peaks in 1949, 1952, 1957, 1965-67, and in 1973. The excitement of reporting vague lights in the sky that were thought to be extra-terrestrial spacecraft then seemed to fade from the public's attention, only to be replaced by growing claims of crashed-saucer cover-ups and the kidnappings of unsuspecting humans by aliens.
In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were supposedly abducted by aliens while driving late at night along a rural road in New Hampshire. This event came to light only after Betty underwent hypnosis by a psychiatrist who was treating her for nightmares. Following the publication of a book about the abduction, many other cases involving kidnappings by aliens were reported, both nationally and globally. In many of these cases, the alleged victim only recalled the incident after undergoing hypnosis therapy that allowed "recovered memories" to surface.
Since there has never been any hard scientific evidence that even one of these abductions really occurred, perhaps kidnappings of humans by aliens actually take place only in the minds of the victims or their therapists. However, for a while, reports of alien abductions of humans became so commonplace that one web site offered instructions on how to make a "thought screen helmet". These helmets supposedly worked by scrambling any telepathic communications between aliens and humans, and, presumably, if aliens couldn't communicate or control humans, they would not abduct them. Yeah. Sure.
In addition to sightings of flying saucers and stories about humans being kidnapped by aliens, there have been about 70 reported cases worldwide where alien spacecraft have supposedly crashed. One of the first crash reports came in 1947 from near the Army Air Force base near Roswell, NM. Some "strange material" was found on a ranch in that area and several of the local folk were positive that the items came from a flying disk. Officials from the Army Air Force base examined the debris and identified it as the remains of a very high-altitude balloon device that was being tested by the Army Air Force to help in detecting Soviet nuclear explosions. This explanation did not satisfy many UFO conspiracy buffs and over the years they have demanded many hundreds of government documents under the Freedom of Information Act. None of these have turned up credible evidence to support what UFO proponents call a government cover-up. Despite this lack of any concrete evidence to keep the myth alive, many books, comics, TV series, and movies have featured the Roswell incident and today, UFO tourism is a major source of income for the Roswell region.
As Carl Sagan once observed, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." And wild stories, combined with fuzzy, unfocused photos and videos, simply do not constitute extraordinary evidence. So, with zero evidence that aliens have ever visited the earth, the modern day folklore about alien UFO visits may, hopefully, just fade away as more and more people employ critical thinking and skepticism.
Editor's note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, the Southern Tier Astronomy Recreation Society, and the Post Journal and OBSERVER. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at www.martzobservatory.org or S.T.A.R.S. at www.UpStateAstro.org/stars/stars.html.