Look Up At The Night Sky (June 2020)

Here is a listing of celestial events you might want to look for during these spring/summer nights in June. All times are listed as Eastern Daylight Time for the Northern Hemisphere.

Take note that we sometimes will use angular degrees to define the separation between two objects, such as (for example) the Moon and a bright planet. Keep in mind that the width of your clenched fist, held at arm’s length, measures roughly 10°.

June 3Venus reaches inferior conjunction (when a planet lies along a straight line between the Earth and the Sun) at 2 p.m. when it grazes just past the Sun only two-tenths of a degree from its upper limb (the Sun itself measures one-half or five-tenths of a degree across). This is a counterpart of the Transits of Venus of June 8, 2004 and June 6, 2012, but this time it results only in a very near miss this time.

How soon after inferior conjunction can you first glimpse Venus in the dawn? On June 6th, it rises just 15 minutes before the sun as seen from latitude 40° north and is probably visible only in binoculars. Can you make out the hair-line crescent with horns extending a little more than halfway around?

Vaulting out of the sunrise glow, the interval between Venus-rise and sunrise increases very rapidly. It’s about 45 minutes by June 12th and almost 2 hours by month’s end.

example of inferior conjunction
An example of inferior conjunction. Image courtesy of Swineburne Astronomy Online.

June 4 -Mercury begins the month shining brightly low in the west-northwest sky after sunset, in the midst of an excellent evening apparition. The planet seems unusually prominent because it outshines two bright stars above it—Castor and Pollux—which represent the starry eyes of the Gemini twins. In a few more days Mercury dives back into the Sun’s glare.

You probably won’t see Mercury after the 11th when it will appear only about one-third as bright as it was ten days earlier. It will pass between the Earth and Sun (inferior conjunction—see graphic, above) at month’s end.

June 5 – June’s Strawberry Moon turns 100% full at 3:12 p.m. See how this Moon got its many names in our short video, below.

PENUMBRAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: Also, for the second time this year (the first was January 10), the Moon encounters the Earth’s outer penumbral shadow. Generally speaking most people do not notice any darkening or shading effect if less than seven-tenths of the Moon’s diameter were inside the penumbra, so in this case, with less than six-tenths of the Moon within the penumbra, it’s debatable whether anyone will notice any slight darkening effect on the Moon’s lower edge at mid-eclipse. Visibility will be confined to central and east Africa, Eastern Europe, western and central Asia, most of Indonesia and Australia.

Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 1:43 pm ET
Mid-Eclipse: 3:25 pm ET
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 5:06 pm ET
Magnitude of the Eclipse: 0.593 ET

partial lunar eclipse

June 8 – Jupiter and Saturn team up with the waning gibbous Moon late in the evening. Jupiter will be positioned well to the upper right of the Moon, while Saturn sits directly above it. The gap separating the two giant planets has widened slightly to 5° (separated by “half a fist”—see opening paragraph above about distance).

Jupiter rises in the southeast about three hours after sunset at the beginning of June, but by month’s end, it’s rising less than an hour after sunset and shines through the fading twilight. Jupiter is approaching a July 14th opposition. Saturn, meanwhile, trails behind Jupiter by about 20 minutes. A couple of hours after they rise, both planets are fairly well up in the southeast and both are crossing the southern meridian between midnight and dawn.

June 13 – Last Quarter Moon at 2:24 a.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon due to the direct sunlight, the illuminated part is decreasing toward the new Moon phase. That very bright orange-yellow “star” hovering to the upper right of the moon is Mars. During June as its distance from Earth decreases from 94 million to 76 million miles, the planet correspondingly brightens from 0 to -0.5 magnitude. As the month closes, its disk will have grown big enough for a first few surface features to be glimpsed in medium-sized telescopes at morning twilight (when Mars has climbed reasonably high).

June 19 – Look very low above the east-northeast horizon about 45 minutes before sunrise for brilliant Venus and the narrow sliver of a waning crescent Moon. For a given location on Earth, Venus either disappears or reappears behind the Moon with the Sun below the horizon on average once every 21 years.

And across parts of eastern New York and New England, Venus will be positioned behind the Moon (called an occultation) as they rise; Venus emerging into view from behind the Moon’s dark limb some minutes later, though they will be barely above the horizon.

From the Canadian Maritimes, they’re a bit higher, but Venus’s emergence comes within minutes of sunrise (use binoculars). Elsewhere in the US and Canada, Venus will be visible within a degree or two to the upper right of the Moon.

June 20 – The Summer Solstice. The Sun arrives at that point where it is farthest north of the celestial equator, at 5:44 p.m. Summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere and winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

June 21 – New Moon at 2:41 a.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.

June 21 – Also on this date there will be an annular eclipse of the Sun because at this moment in time the Moon is situated 241,000 miles (387,900 km) from Earth, so its disk will appear slightly smaller than the Sun. As such, when the Moon passes squarely in front of the Sun, it will not totally cover it, but instead, a narrow ring of sunlight will remain visible. Hence, the term “annular” eclipse, derived from the Latin annulus meaning “ring-shaped.”

The Moon will not be covering the Sun completely, causing an “Annular eclipse.”

The eclipse path starts in central Africa at sunrise in the Republic of the Congo, just west of the Ubangi River. Then it moves northeast cutting through parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Red Sea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan and India.

Then it turns east and finally southeast over China, Taiwan and then out into the Philippine Sea, passing just south of Guam before coming to an end at sunset over the North Pacific Ocean. The point of greatest eclipse will occur over Uttarakhand, a state in northern India crossed by the Himalayas.

The path width will have shrunk to just 13 miles (21 km) and the ring phase will last just 38 seconds. A partial eclipse of varying extent will be visible over much of Africa and Asia, as well as Indonesia. A slice of southeast Europe will catch the opening stages of the eclipse after sunrise and a small section of northernmost Australia will catch the end just prior to sunset.

See the eclipse path here.

June 28 – First Quarter Moon at 4:16 a.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to becoming a full Moon.

June 30 – If you’ve been following Venus, you may have noticed that the orange 1st-magnitude star Aldebaran is now emerging into view less than 5° below it. Using binoculars in early dawn may also show that Venus is about to enter into the midst of the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, also known as the “Five Daughters of Atlas.”

June 30 – Also today, Mercury is at inferior conjunction and moves into the morning sky.

Our schedule is adapted from “Skylog,” a regular feature appearing in Natural History magazine, written by Mr. Rao since 1995.

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