Welcome to June, and welcome to the first month of summer. The summer solstice this year will occur on June 20. The Sun will be as far north as it gets in our sky. Sunrise on June 20 will come at 5:15 a.m., and sunset will be at 9 p.m.
We are graced by the solar system’s two largest planets in the June night sky. Both Jupiter and Saturn will shine bright. Jupiter will be due south at sunset in early June, and in the southwest by month’s end. We are pulling farther away from Jupiter now, so the planet will appear a bit smaller and fainter as the month goes on.
Jupiter will “visit” our Moon twice in the month, on June 3 and June 30. On June 3, you’ll find Jupiter to the right of the Moon, and to the left of the Moon on June 30. This is a good demonstration of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth, which is about 27 days.
Saturn will be closest to Earth on June 15. At that time, the ringed planet will be in the sky all night. By the end of June, Saturn will rise at about 7:35 p.m. Saturn and its rings make a stunning view in a telescope. You can also see several of the planet’s moons, including Enceladus, famous for the recent discovery of subsurface water, and evidence of hydrothermal activity.
As usual, our Moon puts on a fine show in June. The month begins with a waxing gibbous Moon in the southeast at sunset. As mentioned before, the Moon will be near Jupiter on June 3. Full Moon comes on June 9. On that night, the bright “star” to the right of the Moon is Saturn, a good time to locate that planet.
On June 20, find a beautiful crescent Moon to the right of bright Venus in the morning sky. New Moon comes on June 23, followed by the early crescent Moon in the evening sky late in the month, ending with the second visit to Jupiter on June 30.
If you want to observe the stars under dark skies in June, you’ll have to stay up a bit late. Total darkness will not arrive until after 11 p.m. PDT. The warmer temperatures of late spring and early summer will help though, so give it a try!
Turn to the east, and look for the outline of the Milky Way. It will be low in the eastern sky in early June, and almost overhead by the end of the month at 11 p.m. Follow the starry path to the right, toward south, and you’ll find Saturn near the horizon, in the Milky Way.
Saturn sits to the right of the “Teapot” of Sagittarius, the archer. Use the planet to try and find the teapot, low in the sky. Follow the galaxy arm the other way, to the north, and find Cassiopeia, the Queen, looking like a bright “W” in the northeast. In the middle, look for the constellation Cygnus the Swan.
The swan-shape is also known as the “northern cross”.
Early June presents some good times to see the International Space Station zoom overhead. Excellent passes, where the Station is high in the sky, will occur on June 1 at about 11:10 p.m., June 2 at 10:20 and 11:55 p.m., June 3 at 11:04, June 5 at 10:55, and June 8 at 9:55 p.m.
Times may vary depending on where you are observing from, be ready a bit early so as not to miss it. The station appears as a bright star, moving quickly across the sky. There are other passes too, check them out at www.heavens-above.com.
Enjoy June’s night skies!