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Look Up! A Stargazer’s Guide to June 2018

Look Up! A Stargazer’s Guide to June 2018

There are lots of exciting things happening in the June night sky (dawn sky too!), including a full Strawberry Moon, planetary line ups, and more. Below is a listing of all the astronomical events to watch for this month. Bookmark it so you don’t miss a thing!

June Night Sky Guide – 2018:

(All times Eastern Daylight and based on Northern Hemisphere viewing)

June 1–3 — Just before daybreak, look to the south to see Saturn and Mars near the waning gibbous Moon. Because the Moon moves toward the east in front of the zodiac constellations at a rate of 13 degrees per day, expect the Moon to change its position from day to day. On June 2 it will move between the two planets before cozying up to Mars on June 3.

June 2 — The waning gibbous Moon is at apogee at 12:26 p.m., its farthest point from Earth. An easy way to remember: Apogee = Away.

June 3 — Look for the Big Dipper asterism, referred to as The Plough by those in the U.K. As the most recognizable star pattern in our night sky, it will be high in the north in the evening hours during the month of June.

June 6 — Last Quarter Moon 2:32 p.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, heading toward the New Moon phase.

June 6— Mercury reaches superior conjunction, passing from the morning to the evening sky. Observers who closely follow Venus may be able to see Mercury as early as the evening of the 13th in rather bright skies, about a half hour after sunset and hovering just above the west-northwest horizon nearly 30-degrees to the lower right of Venus. Mercury, at magnitude -1.4, will then match Sirius (the brightest star) yet will be fainter than Venus by nearly three magnitudes. By month’s end, Mercury dims to magnitude -0.1, but is more easily found, setting 1½ hours after the sun.

June 9 — While summer hasn’t officially started quite yet, stargazers can still spot the Summer Triangle on these spring evenings at dusk. To spot it, look for a triangle that’s composed of the three brightest stars in the sky: Deneb, Vega, and Altair. Learn more about the Summer Triangle here.

June 11 — At dusk, Venus forms a nearly straight and horizontal line, just over 10° long with the much fainter “Twin stars” of Gemini, Pollux and Castor. For viewers at mid-northern latitudes, June is the month when Venus appears highest right after sunset. This is true because the planet is moving rapidly south relative to the Sun. This dazzling world (magnitude -4.0) is more than 25-degrees high at sunset now for observers around 40-degree north latitude. It sets about 2½ hours after the Sun at the start of June and maintains this interval throughout the month. You should be able to detect the gibbous phase of Venus in your telescope if the atmosphere is calm and you observe as early in twilight as possible before it has sunk too near the horizon.

June 13 — Tonight is a Supermoon! But you won’t see it. That’s because its in the “new” phase (at 3:43 p.m.), when the Moon more or less rises and sets with the Sun and is invisible to the naked eye. Moreover, the dark side of the Moon faces Earth while the lit side faces the Sun. The new Moon will be at its closest point to Earth in its orbit on the 14th.

June 14 — Earliest sunrise of 2018. This happens every year around mid-June, despite the year’s longest day (in terms of daylight) — the Summer Solstice — being one week away. The Moon is also at perigee, its closest position to Earth, at 7:45 p.m.

June 16 —A lovely crescent Moon and Venus likely will attract attention to even casual sky watchers at dusk, although they are not really all that close to each other; Venus appears 7 or 8-degrees to the right of the Moon as they descend the west-northwest sky. It’s best to find an unobstructed view of the sunset in order to spot  Mercury very close to the horizon.

June 19—Venus is now in the middle of the faint zodiacal constellation of Cancer the Crab. Wait until about an hour after sunset and use binoculars or a wide-field telescope at low magnification to detect big Messier 44, the Beehive Cluster, as a faint sprinkling of stars less than a degree to the lower left of Venus; a lovely sight!

Did you know: The Moon and Venus rank as the second-brightest and third-brightest celestial bodies after the Sun?

June 20 — First Quarter Moon 6:51 a.m. In this phase, one-half of the Moon appears illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing.

June 21 — Summer Solstice at 6:07 a.m. This is when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the celestial equator, giving us the longest day of the year in terms of daylight. Summer is officially here in the Northern Hemisphere! Read more about the summer solstice.

June 23 — Once it gets dark, take note of Jupiter in the south-southeast, shining to the lower right of the bright waxing gibbous Moon. Jupiter was at opposition in early May, so in June it fades ever-so-slightly to magnitude -2.4 and gets a trace smaller in telescopes. Although Venus outshines it, Jupiter is the dominant light in its part of the sky and still offers a generously big disk; given good seeing and a large telescope, it can be rich in telescopic detail.

June 27 — Saturn comes to opposition in grand fashion, being accompanied across the sky by the full Moon, which itself also happens to be opposite to the Sun. Saturn will arrive at opposition at 8:17 a.m. The Moon will pass about 1° to its north about 15 hours later at around 11 p.m. late Wednesday night and will then officially turn full at 12:53 a.m. on Thursday.

June 28 — Full Strawberry Moon at 12:53 a.m. The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event, and appears full for three days.

See how June’s Moon got its name in this short video:

June 29 — Moon is at apogee 10:29 p.m., its farthest point from Earth. An easy way to remember: Apogee = Away. You can also try to spot the planet Mercury beneath Venus low in the western horizon, 1 hour after sunset. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the five brightest planets, and all have the possibility of being seen after sunset.

June 30 — Look to the southeast in the evening for the waning gibbous Moon and Mars to rise into the southeast sky about mid-to-late evening.

Compiled with information from astronomer Joe Rao.

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